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Monday December 3, 2012
By AFTAR SINGH
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia failed when it mattered most, going down to South Korea 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament in Quilmes, Argentina, on Saturday.
Going into the match with a four-match unbeaten run, the Malaysians never had a chance as the Koreans showed their class with a 4-0 lead at half-time. It was sweet revenge for Korea, ranked seventh in the world, as they were beaten 4-2 by 13th-ranked Malaysia in a group match earlier in the week.
Hyun Hye-sung put Korea on a sound footing by scoring a brace in the eighth and 27th minutes. In the 33rd, the Koreans were three-up off an own goal by Faiz Helmi Jalil. A minute later, it was 4-0 through skipper Lee Seung-ll.
After the breather, the Malaysians gave a better show with forward Chua Boon Huat reducing the deficit in the 48th. But two minutes later, the Koreans increased the lead to 5-1 off a penalty corner by Jang Jong-hyun.
Defender Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim then netted Malaysia’s second goal off a penalty corner in the 52nd minute. But Jong-hyun was on target again in the 60th minute to make it 6-2.
Mohd Marhan Abdul Jalil then scored Malaysia’s third consolation goal in the 65th.
Malaysia, coached by South African Paul Revington, will face Ireland in the third placing playoff. As for Korea, they take on Argentina in the final with the winners getting a place in next year’s Champions Trophy. Argentina defeated Ireland 2-1 in the other semi-final.
Malaysia team manager George Koshy said they were punished for their poor defending and failure to capitalise on their goalscoring chances, especially in the first half.
“Our game was also affected by three players (Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib, Marhan and Faiz Jali Helmi) being sent to the sin bin for getting yellow cards. We tried very hard to make a comeback in the second half but it was too late. It was a bad day for us,” said George in a telephone interview yesterday.
Asked about Malaysia’s chances against world No. 15 Ireland, George said: “It’s not going to easy as we drew with them 1-1 in the Olympic qualifier in Dublin in March. They have also beaten us previously in the Champions Challenge II tournament.”
For the record, Malaysia’s best finish was fourth in Kuala Lumpur in 2001. In last year’s tournament, Malaysia were placed fifth.
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