Malaysia are through to the last eight of the HERO Hockey World League Semi-final after convincingly beating China 5-1 in their penultimate Pool A match at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London today.
Needing only a draw and with a chance of getting an automatic spot 2018 Hockey World Cup, the Speedy Tigers had the best possible start to the match when Faizal Saari dribbled pass three China defenders and finished into the bottom corner after a lovely overhead pass by Razie Rahim in the 2nd minute.
Ten minutes later, Najmi Jazlan converted a penalty corner to put Malaysia fully in charge of the match before Razie grabbed a brace for himself in the 20th and 27th minute; first through a penalty stroke after Shahril Saabah was fouled in the area and the second through another tidy penalty corner conversion.
Malaysia’s clinical finishing in the first-half allowed them to ease the pressure in the 3rd quarter until China managed to get on the score sheet through a penalty stroke taken by Du Talake in the 43rd minute after Najmi was judged to have made a stick tackle on an onrushing Chinese player.
Fitri Saari restored Malaysia’s four goal lead nine minutes from time through another penalty stroke which ultimately killed the game off and allowed Coach Stephen Van Huizen to rotate some players.
“Today we were in control throughout the first-half but mentally took our foot off the pedal when we went four nil up and conceding caused some anxious moments. We are happy to achieve our first objective which is to qualify for the quarters and now we will take a different approach to finish as high as possible. We are underdogs against India and hope to raise our game when we meet”, commented Stephen after the match.
After taking a positive step forward to qualifying for next year’s Hockey World Cup, Malaysia face India next in the quarter-finals on Thursday (22 June, 10.30pm MYT) after sealing 3rd spot in Pool A regardless of the score between England and South Korea which commenced later.
The semi finalists of this London Semi-final leg will also qualify for the World League Final in December along with the top four finishers from the Johannesburg leg.