THE National team were robbed of a penalty stroke as they went down 3-2 to France in the Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Kuantan, Pahang yesterday.
The score stood at 3-2 in favour of France, when a clear infringement was made by the French defender in the 67th minute, but the umpire blew in the different dirrection to the chargin of the fans, as well as Malaysian players.
Malaysia were in a hurry to claim an early lead but in the process made too many mistakes and by half-time, it was the French who held the lead off a counter-attack.
There was a good build-up from midfield from Malaysia, but lacking was the finishing touch from the forward-line as the strikers were easily stopped by French defenders.
Malaysia's No1 goalkeeper S. Kumar brought out two consecutive saves in the 25th minute to keep the match alive for coach K. Dharmaraj's men, as the French soaked in the attacks but never gave away a single penalty corner in the first half.
France had one penalty corner, but shot wide in the 30th minute. However, a solo run from Oliver Sanchez in the 34th minute finally beat Kumar one-on-one and they trooped into the dressing room looking dangerous.
But it was Malaysia who again went searching for the elusive penalty corner or goal, and were rewarded when Faizal Saari made a darting run in the 40th minute and sent in a cross for seasoned striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin to make a diving connection for the equaliser.
Faizal then took it upon himself to score a classy back-stick flick which sailed high and went crashing into the net for the lead in the 50th minute but Victor Charlet drew level for France in the 53rd minute off their second penalty corner with a low push.
Malaysia lost the match in the 63rd minute when Kumar tackled a French player outside the semi-circle and the umpire awarded a penalty stroke and also flashed Kumar with a yellow card.
Second goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman came in but was beaten by Hugo Genestet from the spot to make it 3-2.
World No 7 South Korea took a comfortable 3-1 lead yesterday but collapsed in the last 10 minutes of the match to
share the spoils at 3-3 with World No 16 Canada in Group B.
And this was a worrying factor for their consultant Paul Lissek: "My players just failed to hold onto a comfortable lead, even though the pressure was not on them. And this is a worrying factor leading to the Malaysian match tomorrow (today) where we will face many young and speedy legs."
Lissek, a former Malaysian coach, said Korea were looking for a winning start as they wanted too top the group and have a 'better' cross-over opponents in the quarter-finals.
"Now we will have to work even harder against Malaysia, as we wanted a win against Canada and top the group, but it did not happen. I believe Malaysia are doing the right thing by mixing many young players into the squad as it did make them better in the Azlan Shah Cup.
"I think Malaysia are looking for the best combination for the World Cup, and it is good that they are trying out players," said Lissek.
The German, who took Malaysia to the 1998 Commonwealth Games silver medal, also believes that Korea will face a tough time against Malaysia who have showed good form for the last 12 months at the junior and senior level.
"It will be our toughest match at the group stage, but then again, all eight teams play in the quarter-finals, and that one match will be the most important one in this tournament," said Lissek.
P W D L F A PTS
JAPAN 1 1 0 0 3 2 3
N ZEALAND 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
POLAND 1 0 0 1 2 3 0
IRELAND 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
P W D L F A PTS
FRANCE 1 1 0 0 3 2 3
S KOREA 1 0 1 0 3 3 1
CANADA 1 0 1 0 3 3 1
MALAYSIA 1 0 0 1 2 3 0
RESULTS -- Group A: New Zealand 2 Ireland 1, Japan 3 Poland 2.
Group B: South Korea 3 Canada 3, Malaysia 2 France 3.
TODAY: Group A: Japan v New Zealand (3pm), Ireland v Poland (5pm)
Group B: Canada v France (7pm), Malaysia v South Korea (9pm).
April 28: REST DAY.
April 29: Group A: Ireland v Japan (3pm), New Zealand v Poland (5pm).
Group B: South Korea v France (7pm), Canada v Malaysia (9pm).