FIRHAN Ashari lifted Malaysia with a 26th minute penalty corner goal as Stephen Van Huizen’s side scrambled to force a 1-1 against Japan in the first test match in Kakamigahara on Saturday.
The Japanese had taken a seventh minute lead through Hiroki Sakamoto via a penalty corner. The second test match will be played on Sunday followed by two more friendly matches before the Malaysians head for home.
Malaysia’s tour of Japan got off on rough gravels after the side lost 5-1 and 3-1 respectively in two friendly matches earlier. The last time the seniors played against Japan was at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh recently and won 4-3.
The team is without six key players on the Japan tour. Goalkeeper S. Kumar is nursing a thigh injury, Faiz Helmi and Fitri Saari are sitting for University examinations, Shahril Saabah is mourning the passing away of his mother while National skipper Razie Rahim and Nabil Fiqri are back in training with the Police Force.
Japan are preparing a team as host for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while van Huizen is gearing his boys towards the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan, Pahang from October 19-30 and qualification to the Tokyo Olympics. Malaysia last featured at the Olympics in 2000.