MALAYSIA spiraled to the top of the Azlan Shah Cup standings when they beat Japan 4-3 in Ipoh yesterday.
The national players, who held New Zealand 3-3 on Wednesday, were in total control of the match and will remain at the top on four points for the next 48 hours as the tournament takes a break today.
National coach Stephen van Huizen said: "We had a very good start but the last five minutes were not that good. We need to close up the game after taking a big lead, instead of fighting till the end."
"If you told me before the start of the tournament that we will be having four points after two matches, it would have looked unlikely. But here we are today and I'm very happy with the way my players committed themselves in two fast paced matches," said van Huizen.
When pointed out that letting in late goals has been Malaysia's biggest problem for decades van Huizen said: "Agreed, and we would have to look into this problem again, to avoid it in Ipoh for a start."
After a day's break, Malaysia take on mighty Australia.
Malaysia started on an aggressive note and were rewarded in the second minute itself when Razie Rahim scored off the first penalty corner.
However, Japan equalsied off their first penalty corner when skipper Hiroki Sakamoto perfected a set-pice. It was just the third minute, but plenty of action was being displayed by both sides.
The national players, urged on by a capacity crowd, pushed foward in numbers and won their second penalty corner in the 11th minute. Razie was on target again with a low drive, and eased some pressure on the back-line.
Penalty corners, Malaysia's strength, provided the third goal when in the 14th minute, Razie's attempt was deflected by goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa but Haziq Samsul pounced on the rebound and made it 3-1.
And right after the half-time break, Malaysia won their fifth penalty corner and Razie's flick hit a Japanese defenders' head and the umpire awarded Malaysia a penalty stroke.
Fitri Shaari stepped up to the spot and scored the fourth goal in the 32nd minute.
Shota Yamada made it 4-2 in the 54th minute, and then 4-3 in the 59th minute but Malaysia held on to the three points.
P W D L F A Pts
MALAYSIA 2 1 1 0 7 6 4
AUSTRALIA 1 1 0 0 5 1 3
PAKISTAN 1 1 0 0 3 1 3
INDIA 2 1 0 1 3 6 3
N ZEALAND 2 0 2 0 4 4 2
CANADA 2 0 1 1 2 4 1
JAPAN 2 0 0 2 4 6 0
RESULTS: Australia 5 India 1, New Zealand 1 Canada 1, Malaysia 4 Japan 3.
April 8: REST DAY.
April 9: Japan v Canada (4pm), New Zealand v Pakistan (6pm), Malaysia v Australia (8.35pm).