ANTWERP (Belgium): Malaysia flirted with danger before grinding out a 3-2 win over China in the World Hockey League Semi-final in Belgium.
It was not smooth sailing for Malaysia as they lived dangerously in the later stages of the Group B match at the KHC Dragons Stadium.
National coach Tai Beng Hai was generally pleased with his boys despite the nervous start.
“It is good to get off with a win in an opening match. This will help relieve the pressure on the players. I have to admit that we could have made it less dramatic.
“We held the upper hand for most part of the match. I am sure the players will learn from this and not repeat it,” said Beng Hai.
Before the match got underway a one-minute silence was observed in respect of goalkeeper S. Kumar who lost his son on Thursday.
In the 14th minute, Malaysia had their first penalty corner but Faizal Saari’s flick was saved by goalkeeper Yan Rongyao.
Four minutes later, Malaysia took the lead when Faizal blasted the ball in from close range.
And just as the second quarter (30th minute) came to an end the Malaysians scored their second goal when national junior Mohamed Haziq Shamsul connected Meor Mohamed Azuan’s free hit into the D.
In the third quarter, Malaysia’s decision to ease on their foray upfront backfired when China scored to reduce the deficit in the 37th minute through Guo Xiaoping.
In the 41st minute, China were awarded a penalty stroke for a stick check but the Malaysians asked for a video referral and the decision was over-ruled.
Then Mohamed Razie Rahim converted from the third penalty corner in the 53rd minute to given Malaysia a 3-1 lead.
But Zhang Zhixuan scored China’s second a minute later which forced the Malaysians to defend in numbers to safeguard their advantage.
Razie said they made it hard on themselves.
“We made silly errors as we had the game in our hands. I’m sure the players will realise that we cannot afford to let our guards down at any time.”
Malaysia will take on Ireland on Thursday.