MALAYSIA struggled in the early stages but went on to beat Ukraine 5-1 in the World League Second Round when the forward-line failed miserably and the blushes were saved by penalty corners at the Sengkang Stadium in Singapore.
There was no understanding in the scoring semi-circle in the first three quarters, and if they continue to turn easy matches into troubling ones, misery awaits them in the knock-out stages.
"Yes it was a slow start and I attribute it to the newly laid pitch. But when my players got used to in late in the match, the match was won on a comfortable score and what matters most is the three points in the opening match.
"Penalty corners, even though few (five) saved the day, and now we are looking forward to better matches in this tournament," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
Tournament top seed Malaysia started in a chaotic manner as Ukraine defended with numbers in the first quarter of the match.
However, in the 13th minute, a Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin's shot at goal went sailing into the goalmouth but just to make sure, Faizal Saari connected it in for the lead.
The second quarter was much better as Malaysia found their first penalty corner of the match in the 19th minute, and Razie Rahim's drive hit a defenders' leg and a penalty stroke was awarded.
Razie stepped up to the spot, and flicked in for a 2-0 lead.
The celebrations ended in the 24th minute when a freak deflection from Vitali Kalinchuk sent the ball crashing to the top of the net beating a surprised looking Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar.
The score was a narrow 2-1 even though Malaysia are ranked 13th while Ukraine 24th in the world.
Malaysia's second penalty corner by Faizal hit the post, but the third penalty corner in the 36th minute saw Razie's drive stopped by the goalkeeper Laroslav Hordey but Izwan Firdaus was at hand to slam in the rebound for 3-1.
Izwan again scored off a penalty corner rebound goal in the 53rd minute to bring the score to a 4-1, while Haziq Shamsul scored in the 57th minute to make it a respectable win.
Meanwhile in Group B, World No 14 Japan whipped Bangladesh 5-1 but coach Kang Keon Wook felt the scoreline did not do justice to the match.
"We did not expect such a big scoreline and I feel that we were quite lucky as Bangladesh are fast closing the gap with us. We do not have the best players in Singapore as after the Asian Games many of our seasoned campaigners picked up injuries playing in the local league and I had to make many changes and inject some fresh faces.
"Even then, we hope to play in the final and qualify for the World League Semi-finals," said Kang.