HAFIFI Hafiz (centre) celebrates scoring against Ukraine. Malaysia won 5-1. Pic by S.S. Dhaliwal.
MALAYSIA missed 10 sitters but still went on to beat Ukraine 5-1 to keep their Olympic Qualifier campaign chugging along in freezing cold Dublin.
It was not the kind of score one expected against Ukraine at the University College Dublin grounds, but then Malaysia are not known as a high scoring team even when playing against weaker opponents.
Project 2013 coach K. Dharmaraj, who arrived yesterday to watch the Qualifier, said goals do not matter as Malaysia only need to keep on winning all their matches here.
"The goals did not come against Ukraine, but that is not a bad sign as Malaysia just need to keep winning their matches to make sure we play in the final.
"I know the players are capable of playing better, and they will not disappoint against South Korea and Ireland, which are the crucial matches here anyway," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia went in looking for early goals, but the Ukranian's parked themselves in numbers in their own semi-circle and defended stoutly to deny the Malaysian forwards.
Ireland had scored 12 goals against Ukraine, but they were in no mood to be whipped again, and played a defensive game.
Malaysia won their first penalty corner in the 12th minute, but Razie Rahim's flick was well stopped and the Ukranians grew in confidence after that.
But it was a matter of time before Ukraine cracked, and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin started the ball rolling with a cracking reverse-stick shot which crashed into the net in the 25th minute.
Hafifi Hafiz then took his tournament tally to three goals when the slammed home from close range in the 32nd minute, and Malaysia started to look more composed going into the breather.
Malaysia pressed ahead in the second half but still, the ball refused to go in as the forwards missed sitters while the penalty corners also failed to work.
But the fifth penalty corner finally sailed in, as Razie Rahim's low flick in the 49th minute made it 3-0.
And the unthinkable happened in the 58th minute, when Ukraine won their first penalty corner and Volodymyr Buriatynskyi made a low attempt which easily beat the runners as well as goalkeeper S. Kumar to snatch one goal.
And with 10 minutes remaining in the match, Amin Rahim delivered his fifth goal of the tournament with a low penalty corner push, and Malaysia went 4-1 up.
A penalty stroke was awarded to Malaysia in the 69th minute, after Tengku Ahmad Tajudin was brought down in the semi-circle, and Shukri Mutalib scored form the spot for a 5-1 win.