Dhaka (Bangladesh), 18 October, 2017: Malaysia started their Super 4s stage of the Hero Asia Cup 2017 campaign with a narrow 3-2 victory over Pakistan here today at the Maulana Bhashani National Stadium in Dhaka. Goals by Razie Rahim (10′), Shahril Saabah (25′) and Fitri Saari (34′) while Muhammad Umar Bhutta (1′) and Muhammad Yaqoob (19′) ensured Malaysia notched up their first ever win against Pakistan in Asia Cup history.
It was Pakistan who started the match aggressively as they scored in the first minute of the match through Muhammad Umar Bhutta who finished a field goal past Malaysia’s Goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam to get a 1-0 lead. However, Malaysia were also quick off the blocks as they looked to score the equaliser and succeeded in the 10th minute when they won a penalty corner. It was Razie Rahim who converted the PC for Malaysia to level the scores at 1-1 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Pakistan’s strategy to attack their opponents on the counter worked well as they took the lead again in the 19th minute through Muhammad Yaqoob. However, six minutes later in the 25th minute, Malaysia also made the most of their attacking play as they scored a well-taken field goal which was finished off by Shahril Saabah to equalise yet again.
But the third quarter was an important one in the context of the match as a third goal for either team would put them on course for their first victory in Super 4s of Hero Asia Cup 2017. Malaysia produced a strong third quarter as they made 11 circle entries into opposition territory which helped them in claiming momentum. Just four minutes into the third quarter, it was Malaysia who were awarded a penalty corner for a foul inside the circle by Pakistan. The Malaysians did not let the opportunity slip away as they converted the PC through Fitri Saari in the 34th minute. However, Pakistan had a golden opportunity to level the scores yet again in the 38th minute as they were awarded a PC. But a smart reflex save by Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar was enough to keep out the Pakistanis from scoring.
Pakistan needed to be efficient with their finishing if they had to make a comeback into the match in the fourth quarter. They had opportunities in the last quarter to level the scores and even take the lead in the match, but they could not convert their chances and ended up losing the match 2-3 as Malaysian defence showed resilience to keep out their counterparts.
Post match comments:
Malaysian National Coach Stephen van Huizen expressed content with his team’s performance. “I am happy we won the three points from this match but it does not say anything about making it to the final because we have two more important matches coming up against Indian and Korea (respectively). Though we didn’t get off to a good start as we conceded an early goal in the first minute, I am happy with the way the boys fought and from the start only had one thing on tehir mind, which was to win,” Huizen said.
Pakistan skipper Muhammad Irfan, on the other hand, was disappointed his team continued to miss chances created in the circle. “After taking a very good lead in the first minute, it was disappointing we could not convert easy chances. I didn’t think it was a tough match against Malaysia because we have beaten them in the past but if we keep missing chances like this, it is hard for us to survive in top international hockey,” Irfan stated without mincing his words.