Sunday, May 10, 2009
By Ajitpal Singh
RESULTS: Group A: Malaysia 1 South Korea 1, Japan 5 Bangladesh 0; Group B: Pakistan 1 China 1.
MALAYSIA showed tactical soundness and urgency as they held World No 5 South Korea to a 1-1 draw in their opening Group A match of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.
The Malaysians controlled proceedings and scored with just 15 seconds left before the half-time hooter through a well taken goal by Mohd Nor Nabil Fiqri. However, the Koreans came charging in the second half and found their equaliser in the 53rd minute through Yeo Chang Yong.
Nonetheless, the well-earned draw is a good result for Malaysia in their quest of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament.
Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai said he was satisfied with the result but stressed that his side could have walked away with a win.
"It's a good draw as we held the World No 5 team but we could have won it if our forwards were sharper. The plan was to go on the offensive and also play tight defensively and it worked," said Beng Hai in Kuantan yesterday.
"It was quite tough out there for my boys due to the humidity. However, even the Koreans were suffering on the pitch."
Beng Hai also praised goalkeeper S.Kumar, Shahrun Nabil Abdullah and Sukri Mutalib for their standout performance in the match.
However, Beng Hai was a little bit concerned over the fact the his boys failed to earn a single penalty corner against Korea.
"My boys, especially the forwards, will need to work harder in getting penalty corners as it decides the outcome of most matches. However, at this level, it is pretty hard to earn them as defenders are getting smarter," added Beng Hai.
Meanwhile, Korea coach Cho Myung Jun said the Malaysians were well-prepared against his team.
"They did their homework before the match. My gameplan was to wait and watch the Malaysians in the first half and change tactics in the second half. We had several golden opportunities and also earned three penalty corners, but we were handicapped as my better were not named for this tournament." "However, the draw is a small setback, and we are still confident of winning the tournament. We need to prepare well for our following matches against Japan and Bangladesh.
Malaysia, who rested forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil and defender Engku Mohamad Engku Abd Malek, started rather cautiously and defended well throughout the first half, denying the Koreans open chances.
Malaysia keeper Kumar did not make a single save as his defence led by Amin Rahim cut off several Koreans attacks outside the semi-circle in the opening 35 minutes.
The Koreans indulged in back passes in trying to control proceedings while the Malaysians were rather happy in defending their territory and relying on counter-attacks.
The Malaysian players started to move forward and Ismail Abu could have had an attempt at goal but he could not control a long pass from Jiwa Mohan.
Just when everyone thought the first half would end scoreless, Malaysia struck with less than 15 seconds on the clock.
Ismail Abu left the entire Korean defence trailing on the right and into the semi-circle and laid a reverse stick pass, before the outrushing goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho could do anything, to Nor Nabil Fiqri, who guided the ball into the empty goal.
In the second half, Malaysia started on a furious pace and almost scored another goal in the 45th minute when Hafifihafiz Hanafi was sent clear by Ismail but his attempt was saved by the out rushing Korean keeper Myung Ho.
The speedy Koreans failed at their attempts to break the Malaysian momentum. The visitors resorted to long passes into Malaysia's semi-circle in hope of finding the equaliser.
And they were rewarded for their persistence when Yeo Chang Yong fired home from top 'D', which deflected off a Malaysian stick, to beat keeper Kumar in the 53rd minute.
The Koreans, came alive right afterthat, and forced three penalty corners in quick successions. In the 55th minute, Malaysian keeper Kumar saved brilliantly a powerful attempt by Hyun Hye Sung and three minutes later, the same Korean sent his low drive off target.
In the 60th minute, keeper Kumar was again the saviour when he jumped and padded another penalty corner attempt by Kim Byung Hoon.
The visitors continued their relentless attacks but the Malaysians remained composed and almost got their winner in the 64rd minute but was denied by the acrobatics of keeper Myung Ho.
Chua Boon Huat beautiful cross was connected by the diving Azlan Misron but keeper Myung Ho, who seemed to be wrong-footed, managed to pad the ball away
The final minutes were exciting as both teams tried hard to find the winner but they had to be happy with the draw on the bumpy pitch.
The Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah and his son Tengku Abdullah, who is the president of the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF), also watched the match. Tengku Abdullah congratulated the Malaysians players after the match.
Meanwhile, Akhtar Ali scored fourty seconds from time to save Pakistan to salvage a 1-1 for Pakistan against China in a Group B match. Akhtar guided the ball into goal following melee at China's semi-circle. China went ahead through Hu Hu Ren, off a penalty corner set-piece, in the 61st minute.