Sport

Published: Sunday December 8, 2013 MYT 10:31:00 PM
Updated: Monday December 9, 2013 MYT 12:43:16 AM

Malaysian hockey juniors march into quarter finals

Malaysia's G. Kavin Kartik (left) try to stop a South African player from going through in their Group D match of the Junior World Cup hockey tournament  in New Delhi on Sunday. Malaysia won 2-1.

Malaysia's G. Kavin Kartik (left) try to stop a South African player from going through in their Group D match of the Junior World Cup hockey tournament in New Delhi on Sunday. Malaysia won 2-1.

NEW DELHI: Malaysia beat South Africa 2-1 for their second win in the Junior World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Sunday to qualify for the quarter finals after England and New Zealand could only draw their match.

Mohamed Firhan Azhaari was again the hero, scoring the winning goal in the 42nd minute to put Malaysia through to the last eight on six points with a match to spare. South Africa, who beat England on Friday have three points and occupy second place in Group D.

Goalkeeper Mohamed Hafizuddin Othman must also be given credit for a good display especially in stopping a penalty stroke in the second half.

For the second time, the Malaysians put up a scrappy performance but they defended well as a team.
Malaysian coach K. Dharmaraj said they had expected a tough match as the South Africans were also determined to win the match badly.

“It was basically a do-or-die match for both teams. Of course, there is still one more game to go but it will be a lot harder if we had lost this match.

“We had a testy first half and squandered a lot of chances. We were also lucky that the penalty stroke did not go in.

“There were mistakes at the back but the players recovered quickly to clear it.

“We did not play well, but we got the result we wanted. I think we should be able to go through to the last eight now,” said Dharmaraj.

The Malaysians started off with the same line-up that beat New Zealand 3-2 on Friday.

The South Africans started aggressively and gained their first penalty corner in the 13th minute. Matthew Brown’s direct drag flick easily beat goalkeeper Mohamed Hafizuddin Othman.

The Malaysians woke up after the goal and came close on several occasions.
 
In their haste to score the equaliser, the players became too individualistic and committed many errors. It also did not help the Malaysians as the South Africans used their bigger physiques to knock them off their feet.

Malaysia, however, managed to equalise in the 27th minute thanks to a stroke of luck. Mohamed Nor Aqmal’s shot from outside the D touched goalkeeper Rene de le Peyre and went in as an own goal.

Oozing with confidence, the Malaysians surged forward and kept the South Africans in their own half. The Malaysians earned two quick penalty corners in the 33rd and 35th minutes but both efforts were wasted.

The second half started off with the Malaysians making a strong bid for goal number two.

It paid off in the 42nd minute when Firhan, who scored the winner against New Zealand, capitalised on a defensive mistake to score a field goal.

The South Africans refused to give up. In the 52rd minute, they gained a penalty stroke. The Malaysians challenged the decision by seeking a video referral but it was overruled.

Luckily for Malaysia, Brown flicked his shot directly at Hafizuddin and he was pleased to deny South Africa the equaliser.

“I was prepared for it. And thank God, I guessed the right way. I am glad to have saved the stroke as it helped us win the match,” he said.

The the later Group D match, New Zealand stormed back from two goals down to draw their match against England who went ahead through James Gall (14 min) and Luke Taylor (27 min). 

The Kiwis replied via Kane Russell in the 39th minute and Matt Rees-Gibbs scored with two minutes remaining to keep their quarter-final hopes alive. Both teams have one point apiece going into the final match. 

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