Malaysia scripted a new page in the hockey history of the Asian Games on Tuesday. With a display that underlined the essence of fortitude, it sunk India's hopes of taking the only qualifying spot available for the London Olympics in 2012 with a 4-3 verdict that surfaced off a ‘golden goal'.
It is a pity that India should end the game at the altar of defeat. Actually, the team produced a few incandescent spells, recovered from a goal deficit, scored two brilliant field goals and led until the clock showed three minutes to the end.
In came the lethal striker, Rahim Amin, to demolish India. He pumped in a perfect grounder for the equaliser, pushed the match to extra-time, and produced another impeccable shot to send the Malaysian supporters and players into a delirium of delight.
This is Malaysia's first entry into the final where it will take on Pakistan on Thursday. Pakistan edged out the defending champion South Korea in the penalty shoot-out.
The impromptu scenes of joy by the Malaysians were well deserved for the outfit had taken on the might of the Koreans, Chinese and now the Indians to march into the final.
It was Malaysia that struck first from Tenku Abdul Jalil from a solo effort making capital out of poor defensive work. But the Indians rallied well, thanks to some fluent runs by Tushar Khandekar and Rajpal Singh utilising the wing crosses from Gurbaj Singh. Sandeep Singh produced a superbly driven penalty corner for the equaliser before half-time.
From then on, India had everything rolling for it. When Tushar Khandekar scored off a cross from Shivendra minutes resumption, it looked as though India was on the right lane, synthesising the attack and the defenders. As always, Halappa from the midfield contributed his share as did Sardar Singh at the back.
Fighting the issue tooth and nail, Malaysia exerted pressure and restored parity when Aslan Misron deflected a penalty corner push by Rahim Amin.
India surged ahead again with Rajpal Singh jabbing a rebound from goalkeeper Kumar from a penalty corner hit by Mahadik. The team had just then substituted Sandeep Singh who was not on the field for two penalty corners.
Needlessly inviting stress by allowing the ball to be rolled around, India conceded a penalty corner, three minutes before the end.
Rahim breathed life back into the Malaysian squad with a thundering penalty corner drive and came off with a spectacular penalty corner ‘golden goal' to become part of the moment that will be etched for years in Malaysia's hockey folklore.
A sombre looking chief coach, Jose Brasa, admitted that the team played very well but made mistakes at crucial stages. The players, naturally, were dejected and left the field without even moving in to the mixed zone to face the TV cameras, which they were doing with great relish till Monday.
Korea's search for a third gold medal in a row ended on an agonising note when Pakistan dethroned the defending champion in the sudden death. The man who shattered the dream for Korea was the veteran goalkeeper Salman Akbar.
When he blocked a flick from Yeo Woon Koon in the sudden death, the moment signalled victory for Pakistan which has not won a gold medal since 1990 at Beijing.
The teams were 1-1 at the end of the regulation time and no goal was added in the extra-time.
It was a tension packed match. Both the teams stretched the note of caution beyond an agreeable limit .The consequence was the lack of fizz in the contest. However, none can deny that Pakistan was a shade better.
Zubair Muhammad led the attack with confidence with support from Shafqat Rasool. But credit should also go to the defenders, Zeeshan Ashraff and Imran Muhammad, apart from the goalkeeper who was confidence personified in the tie breaker, and, understandably, ended as the hero of the Pakistani supporters.
The Koreans were unusually slow. The penalty corners were badly handled. In fact, a corner flunked by poor stoppage gave Pakistan a chance to counter attack. Zubair launched the move and Waqas hit the target.
Korea scored early in the second half through Kang Moonkyu who deflected a cross from Jong Janghyun.
The contest moved into extra time amidst all round excitement and then to sudden death during which Salman Akbar rose to the occasion.
Women: Classification (5-6): Malaysia v Thailand (6-30 a.m.); Bronze medal match: India v Japan (11-30 a.m.); Final: China v South Korea (2-30 p.m.).
Keywords: Asian Games 2010