Monday, June 22, 2015

Malaysia barely breathe...

MALAYSIA did just enough to keep the Olympic flame burning in chilly Antwerp when they edged China 3-2 at the KHC Dragons Stadium yesterday.
  It was not a polished display, and there were more hiccups than brilliant displays, but still at this stage, the three points are what mattered most.
  "Yes it was not the best of our ability and we can play much better than this. But since it was out first game, there are bound to be some jitters and hopefully the players would be much more settled down when we play Ireland in three days time," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
  Razie Rahim, the captain, was also a little disappointed with the result but happy his mates walked away with three points.
  "We are capable of playing much, much, better than this but I take the positives out of this close match as we scored two field goals and one off a penalty corner. One more match to the quarter-finals, and I believe against Ireland we will play to expectations," said Razie.
   There were some really jittery moments as Malaysia failed to get even a single shot at goal in the first quarter, while China kept growing with confidence and even won a penalty corner.
  But Roslan Jamaluddin showed his mettle to palm away with ease and the quarter ended with no goals.
  China, 31 in the world, outplayed their rankings and looked on par with 12th ranked Malaysia on many fronts.
  However the game changed in the second quarter when Faizal Shaari nailed the lead with a close range cricket shot, after the ball bounced, in the 18th minute and Malaysia started to play much better hockey.
  Haziq Shamsul delivered a crucial deflection in the 30th minute to ease some pressure on the back-line, and Malaysia went into half-time break looking much better and confident.
  The third quarter started with coach Tai Beng Hai adopting a more defensive style, which was not needed at this stage because Malaysia were already on fire and have strikers like Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Firhan Ashaari, Faizal and Shahril Saabah who can do more damage to the China goal if given a free hand.
  The strategy back-fired as China started attacking and narrowed the gap in the 37th minute when Guo Xioping scored a field goal when he was left unmarked.
  And China almost equalised if not for video referral. A clean tackle from Shahrun Nabil saw umpire Raghu Prasad blowing for a penalty stroke but it was overturned by video evidence.
  Razie Rahim finally found his touch in the 54th minute off Malaysia's third penalty corner to make it 3-1, but right after the restart Zhang Zhixuan scored a field attempt to make it 3-2 -- which remained until the final hooter.
   RESULTS: June 20 -- Group A: India 3 France 2, Pakistan 2 Poland 1.
   June 21 -- Group A: Australia 10 France 0; Group B: Malaysia 3 China 2, Britain 2 Belgium 2.
   June 22: REST DAY