Badminton: M'sian women go down fighting against top seeds Japan

PETALING JAYA: The national women's badminton squad gave a good account of themselves despite losing 3-2 to top seeds Japan in the Asia Team Championships in Manila on Thursday (Feb 13).

Soniia Cheah and S. Kisona provided the biggest cheers for Malaysia when they pulled off sensational victories over world No. 3 Akane Yamaguchi and world No. 19 Aya Ohori at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

World No. 31 Soniia beat Yamaguchi 21-16,13-21,21-18 to prove that her previous win against the Japanese in last year's Fuzhou China Open was no fluke.

SEA Games gold medallist Kisona also stole the limelight when she outclassed Ohori 21-14,21-13.

It was Kisona's biggest win yet as she had not beaten a world Top 20 opponent before.

The points won by Soniia and Kisona in the first and third singles, however, could not stop Japan, the Uber Cup holders, from snatching a 3-2 win to emerge as Group W champions.

Goh Jin Wei and doubles pairs Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and M. Thinaah-Pearly Tan Koong Le lost in their respective matches.

Following Soniia's win, all eyes were on Mei Kuan-Meng Yean to upset world No. 3 Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota to double the lead for Malaysia.

But it proved a tall order as Fukushima-Hirota powered past them 21-11,21-15.

Jin Wei, still seeking to rediscover her form after recovering from her stomach ailment, then went down 18-21,12-21 to Sayaka Takahashi in the second singles as Japan raced 2-1 ahead.

Pearly-Thinaah could not save the match for Malaysia, but the youngsters certainly deserved a pat on their back for stretching world No. 11 Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida to the limit.

They lost 15-21,21-18,16-21 in 58 minutes.

Malaysia will now join Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore and Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals.

A fresh draw for the knockout stage will be conducted after the completion of the men's group stage later on Thursday (Feb 13).

Malaysia's men team face India in their last fixture to decide the Group B winners at 4pm.

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