MALAYSIA were clumsy, at times playing like novices, but still managed to beat New Zealand 3-2 in a dramatic Junior World Cup match at the Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi Friday.
There was plenty of drama in the final three minutes of the Group D match, as New Zealand took out their goalkeeper Richard Joyce and replaced him with a striker as they went looking for the equalsier, but it never came as Malaysia killed the clock with some good defending.
"It was a jittery and cold start even though the weather was pleasent, but this is to be expected in the first match of the World Cup. We were lucky to win, but then again, every team needs luck at one time of the other," said Malaysian coach K. Dharmaraj.
New Zealand coach Grant Edwards said his charges layed well in the firts half: "We did well for 35 minutes and should have won the match then, but nothing went right in the second half and now we will have to beat the other two teams to make sure we play in the quarter-finals."
Malaysia skipper Fitri Shaari feels his mates will play much better after this cold start.
"It was not our normal game, as we made too many mistakes and gave away nine penalty corners. However, we will take the good and leave the bad behind in our next match."
After a rest day today, Malaysia play South Africa on Sunday followed by England on Monday to wrap-up their Group D fixtures.
It was a heart-stopping start for Malaysia as New Zealand won the first penalty corner in the fourth minute itself, but the shortest player on the picth Faiz Jali, ran out like a pouncing tiger to clear the ball for a counter-attack.
And the counter won Malaysia their first penalty corner in the fifth minute, which did not saw a lift-off but the umpire awarded Malaysia their second penalty corner.
It was a set-piece which caught everybody by surprise, as Kavin Kartik pushed towards skipper Fitri Saari, who in turn passed the ball to Shahril Saabah to slap home the opening goal in the sixth minute.
But after that goal, Malaysia gave away four penalty corners from the 10th to the 14th minute, and finally Kane Russel sent in a high ball crashing into the net to equalise.
After that Malaysia had the upper hand for the remaining of the first half, but could not find the lead again, and trooped into the dressing room looking, planning for win.
The good part in the first 35 minutes was that all the Malaysian players were highly disciplined, and never argued with the umpires, but kept their cool even when some decisions went against them.
The boys looked much more settled after the rest, and it did not take long for Rashid Baharom to score a field goal in the 37th minute, to re-ignite the Malaysian fire as New Delhi starts to get colder, as darkness creeps in.
But the joy was short-lived as Kane Russel scores his second penalty corner goal, this time with a low flick in the 47th minute to equalise again.
However, even with their bungling play which gave away New Zealand many chances, the Malaysian team lived to re-take the lead for the third time in the match.
This time, they used the video refferal to their advantage for the first time to win their fifth penalty corner, and Shahril Saabah's push was connected home by Firhan Ashaari for 3-2.
The weather dropped a few degrees further, but even in a cold and clumsy opening game, coach K. Dharmaraj's boys sealed three crucial points which took them a step closer to the quarter-finals.