Mohd Rashid Baharom (centre) celebrating his goal against South Africa in Malaysia's opening match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Thursday. He scored a goal, made an assist and was named man-of-the-match in Malaysia's 3-2 victory. - BERNAMA
IPOH: Mohd Rashid Baharom is still on cloud nine after a perfect international debut for the national team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.
The Penang-born striker marked his first international cap by scoring a field goal in the 3-2 win over South Africa at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Thursday.
He was even named man-of-the-match for his role in setting up the first goal and netting the second.
It was definitely an early birthday present for Rashid, who will turn 22 on March 22.
Malaysia, who finished runners-up to Australia in the tournament last year, took the lead in the 10th minute through another international debutant in forward Mohd Shahril Saabah.
But world No. 12 South Africa equalised through Jethro Eustice in the 16th minute before Rashid netted in the 42nd minute.
Eustice again cancelled out Malaysia’s lead off his second penalty corner goal in the 57th minute.
Luckily for Malaysia, forward Faizal Saari netted the winner six minutes later off the team’s 12th penalty corner attempt.
Rashid, who scored three goals in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December, admitted that he could not have asked for a better start to his hockey career at the senior level.
“I will cherish March 13 for a long, long time. Not only did I score a goal, I also crossed for Shahril to score the first goal,” said Rashid.
“I was so happy when I was chosen as man-of-the-match.
“The goal has boosted my confidence ... and inspired me to continue scoring in the coming matches.”
Rashid thanked national chief coach K. Dharmaraj for having faith in him.
“I never expected to win a place in the senior team after being dropped from the squad when Tai Beng Hai was the coach in 2012,” said Rashid, who is the seventh child among nine siblings.
“Coach Dharmaraj gave a chance to prove my worth and I’m glad I didn’t let him down.”
Rashid’s twin brothers – Rahimi Iskandar and Mohd Rozaimi – are also hockey players. They played for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in the recently-concluded Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL).
Rashid is now hoping to score against Asia Cup champions South Korea tomorrow.
“We need a win against the Koreans to stay on course for a place in the final. It’s not going to be easy because the Koreans play a fast attacking game and are ranked higher than us (world No. 7). But we can do it,” said Rashid.