Malaysian players watch in disbelief as they lose to Canada in the Champions Challenge I semi-final match. The game ended 2-2 in regulation time and went to a sudden-death penalty shootout which Canada won 5-4. – Bernama Photo
KUANTAN: Malaysia squandered a 2-0 lead to end up on the losing side in their semi-final battle with Canada in the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium.
Heartbreak for the Malaysians and the 9,000 fans, who packed the stadium to the brim, came in a sudden-death penalty shootout which Canada won 5-4 after the game had ended 2-2 in regulation time on Saturday.
Malaysia got off to the best of starts when Faizal Saari scored in the third minute from a penalty corner attempt in a match played over four quarters.
And in the 15th minute local boy Ismail Abu’s solo run into the Canadian D resulted in a second goal.
Malaysia’s then took their foot off the metal and it allowed Canada to wrest control to reduce the deficit in the 20th minute when Canadian skipper Scott Tupper made no mistakes with his penalty corner flick.
Malaysia suffered a minor blow in the 31st minute when hardworking defender Faiz Helmi Jali was stretchered out after being fouled by Canada’s David Jameson, who was yellow-carded for the offence. Faiz returned to the field with a bandage over his eye.
Action swung from end to end with Canada and Malaysia squandering their penalty corner attempts five and seven minutes into the second half respectively.
Still it was the Canadians who were the aggressors and their relentless attacks forced Malaysia to concede several penalty corners which resulted in Tupper scoring the equaliser from one in the 60th minute to make it 2-2.
In the shootout, Malaysia took the early lead when Faizal and Faiz Helmi scored with the first two attempts. Malaysia, however, missed the next three attempts.
Benjamin Martin and Gordon Johnston netted for Canada to make it 2-2 after the fifth mandatory attempt.
Then it was down to the dramatic sudden-death shootout. Faizal and Fitri Saari scored their attempts while Mark Pearson and Gordon Johnson matched it.
In the third sudden-death attempt, Mohd Firhan Azhaari missed while Adam Froese scored to put Canada through to their first-ever final against South Korea.
The South Koreans, ranked seventh in the world, were a shade better than the Irish and scored a goal in each half to win 2-1.
The South Koreans will now start as the favourites to lift the title and earn a Champions Trophy place.