MALAYSIA beat world No 6 New Zealand 3-2 in the penalty shoot-out after a nail-biting 70 minutes which saw eight goals flying in the quarter-finals of the Champions Challenge I at the Kuantan Stadium yesterday.
It was May-Day celebrations which almost turned into a Mayday distress signal when coach K. Dharmaraj's men played dramatic hockey as after being 0-1 down by the third minute, they took a 4-1 lead before collapsing and ending up with a 4-4 draw in regulation time.
The hard fought win will now see world No 13 Malaysia play No 16 Canada in the semi-finals tomorrow. Canada beat Poland 3-2 in the other quarter-finals. For the record Malaysia beat Canada 4-3 in Group B.
"It was a heart-stopping match because we let in three goals after taking a big lead and my personal feeling was one of agony as I had suffered disappointment in penalty shoot out when we lost to France in the Junior World Cup semi-finals.
"And it was a Oh No! feeling when the shoot out was being taken as we were down 2-0 but eventually won 3-2 with great saves from the goalkeeper (S. Kumar)," said Dharmaraj.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch was obviously disapointed: "Malaysia were on an upward trend after beating Canada (Tuesday) and were obviously at their best today (yesterday). We let in early goals, but there was a great comeback only to lose out in the penalties.
Steve Edwars tapped in from close range to give the Kiwis an early fourth minute lead, but a super fight-back saw skipper Azlan Misron leading by example to score in the 20th minute while three more were from the efforts of Shahril Saabah (23rd, 31st) and Fitri Saari (24th).
New Zealand clawed back with a hat-trick of penalty corners from Andy Hayward in the 45th, 60th and 70th minutes.
In the penalty shoot-out, Faiz Jali and Faizal Saari missed and the Kiwis were leading 2-0 at that point before S. Kumar brought out three saves while Firhan Ashaari, Shahril Saabah and Fitri Saari were on target to hand Malaysia the hard-fought win.
"We did train for the penalty shooot-out as we know that playing the tournament favourites was never going to be easy and we wanted to be prepared for any eventually.
"We watched how the Kiwis handled penalty shoot out in previous matches and it paid of as now we are one step closer to our target of playing in the final," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah watched the match and said: "They should have won in regulation time when leading 4-1, but never mind, as I'm proud of their fighting spirit and they never gave up."