Wales were given a tough time before notching up their second consecutive win when they came from behind to defeat Belarus 2-1 at the National Hockey Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
After upsetting Canada 3-1 the previous day, Wales were a pale shadow of a team that mesmerized the fans with hard running and clinical finishing,
And that handed the initiative to Belarus who took the lead in the 4th minute through
Wales doubled their efforts and drew level through a penalty corner converted by Gareth Furlong in the 13th minute.
At halftime both teams tripped off on level terms at 1-1.
Three consecutive penalty corners in the 54th minute yielded the desired result for Wales as Furlong got the better of Belarus keeper Aliaksei Rananishkin who had an outstanding match.
“ We did not play up to mark today and the boys know that we could have done much better,” said Furlong.
“ It was tough playing two matches on consecutive days under these conditions as we are not used to playing in such conditions.
“ Still the win is a welcome one as we go into our final match with a relaxed frame of mind.”
Earlier Canada put up a feisty performance to edge Austria 2-1 to get back on track for a place in the semis.
But their performance still lacked the decisiveness so often accustomed to a Canadian team.
“ It was a tough win and I must say that all teams in this group are almost on par,” said man of the match Keegan Pereira
“ We have a two day break before our next match against Belarus and hopefully we can win that and top the pool.
“ However we are quite prepared to play in the cross over matches to get into the last four.”
Austria had romped to a 5-0 win over Belarus while Canada lost 3-1 to Wales.
Hence the points were crucial for Canada while a win could have put Austria in a good position leading up to their final match against Wales..
Both teams were rather slow to get into a proper rhythm as the players looked jaded, probably due to the fatigue after their exploits barely 24 hours earlier.
Austria forced four penalty corners in the first 30 minutes but failed to make them count.
James Wallace gave Canada the lead in the 31st minute after being set up by Keegan Pereira.
And Pereira himself got into the scoring act in the 42nd minute with a hefty hit from the right that whizzed past Austrian keeper Mateusz Symzczyk for Canada to lead 2-0.
Leon Thornblom reduced the deficit for Austria in the 53rd minute.
And that set up for a nervy seven minutes for Canada but they managed to hold on for the crucial three points.
For Austria’s Benjamin Stanzl, his team’s failure to put away the chances in the first half cost them dear.
“ We are normally good in penalty corners but wasted several in the first 30 minutes,” he said.
“ And when Canada took a lead early in the third quarter, we were left chasing the game and it’s tough in these conditions..”