Asian Games 2018: Malaysia one match away from an Olympic berth

Malaysia stunned defending champion India and world number five with a penalty shootout win in the semi-finals of the men’s hockey event at the Asian Games.

It was a pulsating game with both teams throwing everything at each other. But the Malaysians fighting spirit showed as they overcame an adversary many thought will win the gold medal easily.

The Malaysians created history to make their second final in the series. The Malaysians drew 2-2 at the regulation time at the GBK Hockey Stadium.

Then came the shootout where the mandatory five ended with two goals each. Malaysian won the shootout 7-6.

Malaysia scored with all their five sudden-death attempts while S. V. Sunil failed the last attempt for India.

Malaysia is now just one match away from booking their berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Malaysian skipper Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib said that the win was due to their self-belief and their technical preparations.

“There is no doubt that India was the best team in the competition, but we had the measure of their tactics.

“We felt confident that if we execute our moves well then we have a chance. For me it was always a fifth-fifty chance,” he said,

During the shootout, Muhammad Firhan Ashari and Mohd Fitri Saari were on target. For India, the scorers were Akashdeep Singh and Harmanpreet Singh.

Then in the sudden death, the Malaysians scorers were Firhan,  Fitri, Meor Muhamad Azuan Hassan, Faizal Saari and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil.

Kumar made the most important save when he stopped Sunil in the 10th attempt.

Kumar said after the match that they were all focus on the task and did not let up.

“We knew that only a concerted effort will take us to the final. Credit to all the players and they gave their hearts out for this win. It was a team effort,” he said.

India is the defending champion and has three gold medals under their belt. They won their first title in 1966 and then against in 1978.  The third was in Incheon in 2014.

Malaysia and India have met 12 times in the Asian Games in the past. Malaysia has won just one of the encounters in 2010. That was the only time the Malaysians won a silver medal in the series.

Malaysia defended well in the first half as they kept a close watch on the Indian forwards who were stationed in the Malaysian D. The Indians had the advantage and six penalty corners in the first half.

But all of them failed to bear fruit. The Malaysians had four, but like the Indians failed to get a goal.

The action heated up in the second half and India took the lead in the 33rd minute. From their seventh penalty corner, Harmanpreet Singh made his drag flick count to give his team the lead.

The Malaysians used their counter-attacks to good use and in the 39th minute their foiled an Indian penalty corner and had the ball out of the D with a high scoop.

Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin collected the ball and on entering the D relayed to Faizal Saari to score a field goal.

Sadly, the goal lasted just one minute. The Indians hit back the next minute and earned their eighth penalty corner.

This time instead of a direct flick, Harmanpreet related the ball to Varun Kumar whose low push beat the Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar on his right to give India the lead.

The Malaysians did not give up and in the 58th minute took Kumar out and played with a kicking back.

And soon after they earned penalty corner and Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim did not make mistake to take the match into a shootout.

And the rest is history as Kumar four saves in the shootout to take the team into their second final.

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