Jakarta: Japan won their first ever gold medal in men’s Hockey when they defeated Malaysia 3-1 in a shootout after the match ended 6-6 in regulation time at the GBK Hockey Stadium in Jakarta.
Samurai Japan proved their mettle as the deserving team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, although they were automatic qualifiers by virtue of being hosts.
Malaysia held a 5-2 lead at one stage and 6-5 with 20 seconds remaining, but stunning displays from the Japanese presented an enthralling 60 minutes as well as a shootout.
“What can I say, I am very proud of my players. They achieved what was deemed the impossible and they will cherish this gold medal for the rest of their lives,” said a joyful Japan coach Siegfried Aikman. “They never give up attitude is what saw us triumph, this is such a great event for hockey in Japan as the women too won gold.”
As a fact no country has done the double in hockey at the Asian Games.
In the shootout, the Japanese scorers were Koji Yamasaki, Kento Tanaka and Kazuma Murata.
Malaysia got their goal through Firhan Ashaari.
While this is Malaysia’s best finish prior to today was a silver in the 2010 Asiad, Japan had not finished amongst the medalists in their Asian Games participation ever before.
The match got off to a blistering start as both teams played a high-pressure game. Malaysia opened the scoring in the 4th minute through Razie Rahim whose blistering drag flick gave Japanese keeper Yusuke Takano no chance whatsoever.
Japan won their first penalty corner in the 7th minute but keeper S. Kumar was equal to it to deny Japan. But Japan found the breakthrough in the 8th minute as Serene Tanaka slotted home to put Japan on level terms.
Malaysia were on fire and they took the lead once again through Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tg Jalil in the 10th minute. And a minute later, Tengku Ahmad was on target yet again to put Malaysia 3-1 ahead. Faisal Saari further extended the Malaysian lead, scoring from a penalty corner in the 17th minute. Japan were stunned and threw caution into the wind and were duly rewarded with a second goal in the 23rd minute through Kenta Tanaka.
The Malaysian game was in a disarray and Japan nearly scored a third but Kumar denied Shota Yamada’s attempt from a penalty corner seconds before the end of the second quarter. At halftime Malaysia led 4-2.
It was all Japan in the third quarter as they had the Malaysian defence under tremendous pressure. However, a stubborn defence where Razie and Kumar were solid, kept the Japanese abay momentarily.
Malaysia forced two penalty corners against the run of play in the fourth quarter but could not make them count. Amirol Aideed Arshad took some pressure off the team with a delightful deflection goal in the 50th minute.
Japan fought back and narrowed the deficit to 5-3 with Kentaro Fukuda scoring in the 52nd minute. And a minute later the deficit was just one goal with Kenta Tanaka converting a penalty corner to make it 5-4. Koji Yamasuka made it 5-5 in the 57th minute.
Malaysia thought they had won it when Tengku Ahmad deflected in a penalty corner in the 59th minute. But 13 seconds from the hooter, Japan scored the equalizer through Hiromasa Ochihai to take the match into a shootout. Japan emerged the better team in the pressure situation and lifted Gold to make history!