Malaysia, stunned by the suddenness of two goals in a space of 10 minutes, had to summon all its skill and wherewithal to score a 4-2 victory over Japan, the last goal surfacing four minutes from the end in a Pool A match of the Asia Cup hockey championship here on Tuesday. The teams were level 2-2 at half-time.
It was a pulsating contest in every sense of the term as the Japanese, touching top form in the first half, kept the Malaysians totally shackled. Even as the match was five minutes old came the lead for Japan.
A blinding deflection by Toshiro Tachibana off a penalty corner push by Nagaswa left goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam bewildered by the pace and angle.
It took quite a while for the Malaysians to realise the tornado they were facing. Kei Kawakami slithered through for the second goal.
But, progressively, the home team gained control. The Japanese defenders and goalkeeper Akira denied the Malaysians any hint of success in penalty corners till Muhammad Razie came up with a scorcher to bring the match to life. A delectable reverse flick by Firhan Ashaari then brought Malaysia level before half-time.
It was even going for the major part of the second half when a draw looked very much on the cards. But Faisal Saari turned the trend with a fierce penalty corner and even before the cheers died down Aslan Misron increased the lead to 4-2. Malaysia finished its schedule with six points, behind Pakistan in Pool A. In all probability, it will face India in the semifinals on Friday.
Pakistan makes merry
Surviving a few tense moments in the early minutes when the ebullient Yuan Fan cut through alarmingly more than once, Pakistan converted the contest against Chinese Taipei into a target practice. The 13-0 win — 10 goals came in the second half — gave Pakistan its third successive victory in Pool A, which it tops with nine points.
High on confidence after beating defending champion Korea, India faces Bangladesh in its third match of Pool B on Wednesday. Assured of a semifinal spot with six points from two matches, India is all set to grab full points.
The results: Pool A: Pakistan 13 (Shakeel Abbasi, Muhammad Imran 2, Rizwan Muhammad 2, Shafqat Rasool 2, Dilber Muhammad, Haseem Khan 3, Taushiq Muhammad, Irfan Muhammad) beat Chinese Taipei 0.
Malaysia 4 (Muhammad Razie, Firhan Ashaari, Faisal Saari, Aslan Misron) beat Japan 2 (Toshiro Tachibana, Kei Kawakami).
Wednesday’s matches: Korea v Oman (3.35 p.m.); India v Bangladesh (5.35 p.m. IST).