Deemed as the surprise package of the HERO Hockey World League Semi-final-London, Malaysia finished in fourth place following a 4-1 defeat to hosts England in the 3rd/4th placing match at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre today.
After giving World No.1 Argentina a good fight in their semi-final yesterday, the Speedy Tigers entered this match looking for another spirited performance to secure an automatic spot to this year’s World League Finals.
Just like the first meeting between both sides in Pool A, England took the lead in the 5th minute; this time through a brilliant rebound by Harry Martin after Sam Ward’s penalty corner was parried by Malaysia’s goalkeeper, S.Kumar.
Birthday boy David Ames got England’s second goal four minutes later by finishing off a free flowing one touch passing move which opened up the Malaysian defense.
After conceding the second goal, Malaysia showed increased urgency to muster some attacking moves which resulted with their first penalty corner in the 17th minute but Razie Rahim put his flick wide of George Pinner’s goal before Azuan Hassan displayed some excellent individual skill to beat two English defenders only to see his shot hit the outside post a few minutes later.
Harry Martin showed his predatory poacher instincts once again in the 28th minute to deflect a well worked English penalty corner for his second goal of the match.
Malaysia’s Faizal Saari got what seemed to be a consolation goal in the 53rd minute through a deft finish after his brother Fitri crashed the ball right in the middle of the English defense to bag his fourth goal of the tournament.
England’s Captain, Phil Roper closed the match in the last minute with a crunching shot which was too strong for Kumar to handle and made it 4-1 for the World No.7 team and take them to the World League Finals at the end of the year.
“We couldn’t get into our rhythm early on and conceding two quick goals meant we had to fight back which is not easy as this was our seventh match and the players had to dig deep to find the energy” commented Malaysia’s coach, Stephen Van Huizen.
He added, “Kumar played well to keep us in the match and after the third goal, we wanted to play for our pride and fight til the end which I am very proud of. Although we are disappointed we couldn’t finish with a win n get on the podium, we can be happy that we have played a good tournament and surprised many hockey coaches and fans here”.
Stephen’s men definitely deserve praise after qualifying for next year’s Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India and will return home to a heroes’ welcome on Tuesday (June 27, 2017).