KUANTAN: Malaysia came good in the third place playoff match by beating Ireland 4-2 to finish on the podium for the first time in the Champions Challenge 1 hockey tournament.
Malaysia’s performance was nothing to shout about as they were scrappy throughout the match. Two early strikes and another two late goals gave them victory at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium on Sunday.
The Malaysians had a great start, going two-up after only 11 minutes.
Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin, who was named man-of-the-match, surged forward but was fouled in the D. Kazamirul stepped up and easily converted the subsequent penalty stroke awarded for the opening goal in the seventh minute.
In the 11th minute, forward Mohamed Rashid Baharom increased the lead with a field attempt. Like Kazamirul, it was Rashid’s first goal in the tournament.
The Irish had two penalty corners later in the first half in the 15th and 16th minutes but the Malaysians managed to foil them.
But the homesters were not so lucky in the 26th minute. The Irish earned another penalty corner and this time Paul Gleghorne scored with a direct drag flick.
Malaysia then held on for a slender 2-1 first-half lead.
The Malaysians started the second half in a casual way and gave the Irish the chance to plot their attack. In the 43rd minute off a quick counter attack, Ireland got their equaliser with Chris Cargo scoring from the left with a hefty shot.
The goal stung the Malaysians into action but they had trouble getting past the Irish defence.
Malaysia had a good chance to regain the lead in the 64th minute off a penalty corner but goalkeeper David Harte saved it. But Harte was beaten a minute later, this time by a field goal from skipper Azlan Misron.
And with a minute to go before full-time, Mohamed Irhan Azhaari sounded the board off a pass from Faizal Saari.
“It was a difficult match considering we don’t have a good record going into playoff matches.
"The players were down after the Canada defeat and we had a tough time trying to motivate them. I am glad that they responded although the game itself was not that good.
“This is the first time in the series that we have made the podium. I am proud of the players and it augurs well for the team,” he said.
In the battle for fifth place earlier in the day, world No. 6 New Zealand defeated France 5-3.
Japan also ended their campaign on a winning note by beating Poland 3-2 to take seventh place.