Malaysian players celebrate after beating Canada 4-3 in their Champions Challenge I Group B match.
KUANTAN: Malaysia came out tops in a seven-goal thriller against Canada but still finished last in Group B of the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium.
Despite winning 4-3 – their first victory in three outings – Malaysia face a Herculean task as they square up against favourites New Zealand in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
France, who finished ahead of Malaysia in third place with a better goal difference, will take on Ireland.
Group B winners South Korea will meet Japan while second-placed Canada will play Poland.
On Tuesday, Malaysia finally came good – after two dismal performances earlier – as they transformed themselves into a well-knit fighting unit.
They went into the match knowing that only a three-goal win would take them into third place in the group as South Korea had earlier downed France 3-2.
Canada also went into the match knowing that if they could beat Malaysia by three goals, they could top the group.
But there was no danger of that happening as the Malaysians played with more purpose – defending and attacking in numbers.
Despite their strong start, it was Canada who took the lead in the fourth minute through skipper Scot Tupper’s penalty stroke conversion.
Their joy, however, lasted just a minute as Malaysia equalised through Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.
Malaysia then took the lead for the first time in the 19th minute through their first penalty corner, with Mohd Saharil Saabah scoring with a hefty drag flick.
A silly mistake in the 30th minute allowed Canada to draw level through Gabriel Ho-Garcia.
Malaysia regained the lead in the 40th minute off another Shahril penalty corner effort but Canada were back on level terms through another penalty stroke conversion by Tupper in the 52nd minute.
With the score tied at 3-3, Tengku Ahmad swung into action and made it 4-3 three minutes later.
Although both teams continued to attack, it was Malaysia who looked more dangerous. However, time ran out for them in their attempt to get the two extra goals they needed to finish third.
In the other match, South Korea got their goals through Nam Hyun-woo (24th minute), Jang Jong-hyun (35th) and Kim Seong-kyu (56th) while France replied through Tom Genestet (43rd) and Jean-Laurent Kieffer (63rd).