MALAYSIA had the final ticket in their hands but gave it away to Canada after a 2-2 draw in regulation time and bowing out 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Pahang yesterday.
After taking a 2-0 lead, they allowed Canada to claw back into the match and nail the equaliser in the 70th minute. And after five shoot-outs, the score stood at 2-2, but Canada sailed into the final on a 5-4 win after the shoot-out went into sudden-death.
It was only one minute and 30 seconds when Fitri Saari decided to make a solo run from the 25, and win Malaysia's first penalty corner of the match, with his brother completing his move a minute later.
Faizal Saari scored his second goal of the tournament with a low push which went crashing onto the board to beat Canadian goalkeeper Antoni Kindler for the lead.
The Malaysian team were more composed after that early lead but missed many sitters until the 14th minute when local hero Ismail Abu found his scoring touch from an acute angle.
Ismail, from Felda Jengka 22, also took it upon himself to dribble a fed Canadian defenders before unleashing a powerful shot from almost the sidelines, but still managed to find the small gap between the post and Kindler was beaten again.
The match was played over four quarters of 17.5 seconds and the crowd took the many breaks in play to dance and enjoy themselves as Malaysia moved closer to the final.
But Canada had other plans as off their first penalty corner in the 20th minute their skipper Scott Tupper scored to narrow the gap.
And with Faiz Helmi stretchered out in the 31st minute, the fragile Malaysian defense suffered another big blow with another half remaining in the match.
Malaysia loved dangerously after the restart, as they kept missing sitters and started to give away too many chances to the Canadian strikers, and even missed a penalty corner in the 43rd minute, which could have sealed their spot in the final.
Coach K. Dharmaraj's men started missing too many sitters and they paid a heavy price for it in the 59th minute when Tuppper again scored from a penalty corner attempt to make it 2-2.
In the remaining 20 minutes, Canada were the more dangerous side but Malaysia got their chance to nail the final spot when they won a 68th minute penalty corner.
But they bungled, and Canada won two back-to-back penalty corners in the 70th minute, but failed to score and the match went into shoot-out.
For the second time Malaysia are in a shoot-out and they use the same players who beat New Zealand 3-2. Firhan Ashari, Faiz Helmi, Shahril Saabah, Fitri Saari and Faizal Saari were give the task to take Malaysia into the final, with S. Kumar the guardian.
The penalty shoot out stood at 2-2 after the first round, and Canada went into the final on a 5-4 shoot-out score.
RESULTS-- Semi-finals: Malaysia 2 Canada 2 (Canada win shoot-out 5-4); Ireland 1 South Korea 2.
Classification -- Fifth-Eighth: New Zealand 6 Poland 1; France 3 Japan 2.
TODAY -- Final -- Canada v South Korea (9.30pm); Third-Fourth: Malaysia v Ireland (7.15pm); Fifth-Sixth: New Zealand v France (5pm); Seventh-Eighth: Japan v Poland (2.45pm).