Dhaka (Bangladesh), 14 October, 2017: Malaysia were outstanding in their effort to beat defending champions Korea 2-1 in an exciting Pool B encounter here at the Hero Asia Cup 2017 being held at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium on Saturday. It was goals by Faizal Saari (17′) and Azri Hassan (19′) that ensured Malaysia topped the points table in Pool B and make the cut for Super 4s stage with their second successive win.
If India Vs Pakistan encounter is touted as the most-anticipated game of Hero Asia Cup 2017, the Malaysia Vs Korea was expected to be the most exciting encounter in Pool B. With Malaysia showcasing some significant improvement in their performance this year, having beaten higher ranked teams to finish fourth in the Hero Hockey World League Semi Final in London, Korea wore the tag of defending champions who have won maximum number of titles in Asia Cup history.
To emerge victorious, Malaysia banked on their best weapon – penalty corners and right from the start their forwards worked their way in the Korean circle to win a PC. The strategy worked as early as the initial minutes in the first quarter but Malaysia’s No. 1 dragflicker Razie Rahim’s effort was too high above the post and both teams ended the first quarter in a stalemate. But when another PC was awarded to Malaysia in the 17th minute, Faizal Saari worked a different set piece to score Malaysia’s first goal and take a 1-0 lead. Soon after, Malaysia won their third PC in the 19th minute which was effortlessly converted by Azri Hassan to double their lead to 2-0.
Defending champions Korea made amends to a poor start when a quick circle penetration from the right flank saw Seunghoon Lee being assisted with a perfect pass to deflect the ball past Malaysia’s experienced goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam. This 27th minute goal gave hope for Korea to come back into the game.
However, the third half saw Malaysia create a PC in the 37th minute but Rahim’s dragflick went far wide. Korea, meanwhile, continued to press for a breakthrough in the Malaysia circle, they even found an opportunity in the 42nd minute but an alert Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar was brilliant in his effort to pad away the flick. With the score reading 2-1 at the end of the third quarter, there was plenty of action in the final quarter with Korea finding desperate ways to equalize. They found a golden opportunity in the 58th minute but their effort was excellently defended by Malaysian outfit to eventually gain the winning points and top their pool table.
Post match comments:
On winning the match, Malaysian National Coach, Stephen van Huizen said, “We are happy with the win but I would have liked to see our team score more goals. Both our goals today came off PCs and while we want to continue to improve on our PCs , scoring field goals too remains a priority for us and we will use the Oman game to test the areas we want to improve ahead of the Super 4s.”
Goal of the Game Award was awarded to Faizal Saari of Malaysia
and it was presented by Elisabeth Fuerst (Director, Event and Sport Management, Asian Hockey Federation)
HERO of the Match Award was presented to Fitri Saari of Malaysia by Dr Khamis Salim Al-Rahbi (Secretary General, Oman Hockey Association).
Next Oman play Malaysia October 16 at 15.00 hrs local time while China will Korea on the same day at 17.30 hrs local time.