THE Malaysian hockey team ended their Tour of Europe on a high when they beat Spain 3-2 in a highly entertaining match last night.
Malaysia went in the Tour to prepare for the Olympic Qualifiers next year, and were hammered by the Netherlands, but in Spain they picked up momentum and only lost 2-0 to the Spanish senior side in the first friendly.
Yesterday, the Spaniards drew first blood off Roc Oliva in a fourth minute penalty corner which beat goalkeeper S. Kumar low on the left.
A field goal by Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin in the 42nd minute was a top of the circle free-hit set-piece perfected after receiving the ball from Amin Rahim.
However, Roc Oliva again scored off a penalty corner, this time he beat goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin in the 49th minute with a left high ball.
Malaysia pushed forward and Faiz Helmi’s 54th minute effort landed Malaysia a crucial boost.
“To a certain degree, we achieved what we wanted to in Europe as there was improvement in some of the departments, especially the set-pieces,” said chief coach Tai Beng Hai.
After losing 2-0 to Spain in the last match, a strategy was hatched and the players did well to follow the script.
“Pointers picked up from the earlier match were used to stop Spain’s transfer from right to left as they used long balls to beat us.
“My midfielders kept a tight control of the centre and intercepted Spain’s build out of defense and this gave the forwards counter-attack chances and we scored twice off such occasions,” said Beng Hai.
The coach, who went to Europe without four of his regulars to play nine matches, now has more options to choose from as some of the replacements have shown good progress.
In Spain, the national players beat three top Spanish clubs – Real Polo Club (4-2), Athletic Terrassa HC (6-2) and Egara HC (2-0).
They then beat the Spanish Under-21 side 3-0 and then were held to a 1-1 draw.
In the Netherlands, the Malaysian side were hammered 9-1 and 5-1.