Malaysian players attacking the French goal in their opening match of the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan on Saturday. Malaysia lost 2-3. - BERNAMA
KUANTAN: Malaysia went into the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament with the target of winning it.
But, yesterday, they left the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium with their tails between their legs after losing 3-2 to debutants France in their opening Group B match.
France took the lead through an Olivier Sanchez field goal in the 34th minute.
Malaysia needed just six minutes after the break to hit back. Faizal Saari took the ball from the middle of the pitch and raced into the D with two French defenders in tow. Faizal’s attempt across the face of the goalmouth was well connected by Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin for the equaliser.
Faizal then turned scorer when he put Malaysia 2-1 up in the 50th minute off a quick counter attack.
Undeterred, France hit back three minutes later with a penalty corner goal by Victor Charlet.
Then came the howler by goalkeeper S. Kumar in the 63rd minute, which handed all three points to France. Kumar brought down a French player and the umpire blew for a penalty stroke. Hugo Genestet easily converted to give the French a famous win.
In an earlier Group B match, world No. 7 South Korea blew a 3-1 lead to end up drawing 3-3 with Canada.
The Koreans, preparing for the World Cup along with Malaysia and New Zealand, were in total control of the match but somehow fell apart in the last 10 minutes.
Cho Suk-hoon (13th minute) and Nam-hyun (24th) put South Korea 2-0 up before Gabriel Ho-Garcia reduced the deficit for Canada in the 25th minute.
A Kim Seong-kyu field goal in the 39th minute made it look like it was going to be an easy win for the Koreans.
But it all changed when Taylor Curran capitalised on a defensive slip-up to slot home a soft goal in the 60th minute and three minutes later Mathew Guest slotted home the equaliser.
South Korea will play Malaysia today while Canada will meet France.
South Korea’s technical consultant Paul Lissek attended the post-match press conference instead of the coach as the Koreans were upset with the result.
“We wanted to win the match and our target was to top the group. But we played badly in the second half and threw away a good lead. That should not have happened. It was two silly goals that we gave away,” he said.
Lissek described the match against Malaysia today as crucial for them to achieve their target.
“Malaysia are good side with a balanced team. They have been improving consistently over the last one year ... so we expect a tough match,” he said.
Malaysia and South Korea last met in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last month and the teams drew 2-2.