Seniors end Japan Tour with draw

The national senior men’s team ended its tour of Japan with a 1-1 draw against the Japanese senior team in the fourth friendly match in Kakamigahara on Wednesday.

Japan scored their first goal from a penalty corner rebound in the 34th minute. The Malaysians kept their calm, played according to the plan and got their equaliser through Rashid Baharom from a field goal in the 49th minute.

National senior men’s team head coach, Stephen Van Huizen, said: “We started off well and were very much in the game, unfortunately just before half-time we gave away a penalty corner and Japan made it count.”

“It was great to see the players come back into the match strongly to earn an equaliser early in the second half. The match was evenly contested as both sides were going for the win right till the final whistle,” said Van Huizen, adding that there has been significant improvement from the players, mainly the youngsters in every match.

“In previous matches we did not take our chances despite having many opportunities. I believe this series has served us well in understanding the players we have and the areas that we need to work on as a unit,” said Van Huizen.

Malaysia played four friendly and two Test matches against their Japanese counterparts. They lost 1-5 and 1-3 respectively in friendly matches last week, drew the First Test 1-1 on Saturday and lost the Second Test 3-4 on Sunday. On Tuesday the Malaysians went down 1-2 in the third friendly match.

The team travelled to Japan without six core players. Goalkeeper S. Kumar is nursing a thigh injury while Faiz Helmi and Fitri Saari are having University examinations and Shahril Saabah is mourning the demise of his mother.

National team captain and defender Razie Rahim, and midfielder Nabil Fiqri have reported for training in the Police Force after the conclusion of the Razak Cup.

Malaysia last played against Japan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in April and won 4-3 with a brace from Razie, and one each from Fitri and Haziq Shamsul.

“On a bright side, the six matches in Japan have given me indepth knowledge of the players including those on the bench. This is important as we gear up for Asian Champions Trophy which offers ranking points for the first time to the top-three teams,” he said.

The Asian Champions Trophy will be held in Kuantan, Pahang from October 19-29. It is an event organised by the Asian Hockey Federation since 2011. Two-time defending champions Pakistan will be one of the six teams taking part including hosts Malaysia, India, South Korea, Japan and China.

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