KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia were forced to play second fiddle to India again in the Asia Cup hockey tournament.
In the final at the Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Malaysia came up short to lose 2-1 to India.
Still, the second-place finish was Malaysia’s best showing in the tournament. For India, it was their third continental title. They were also champions in 2003 and 2007.
Malaysia, whose previous best finish was third in 2007, went into the final after an exhausting Super Four clash against South Korea on Saturday. Coach Stephen van Huizen’s side earned a last-minute 1-1 draw to make the final.
But Malaysia still managed to put up a strong fight, especially in the second half to keep India on tenterhooks. The Indians had a perfect start, taking the lead after only three minutes when Ramandeep Singh scored from close range after connecting Sunil Sowmarpret’s free hit.
India scored their second goal in the 29th minute through a same move. From a cross by forward Akashdeep Singh, an unmarked Lalit Upadhyay slotted the ball home.
In the second half, the Malaysians were more co-ordinated with their moves and had the Indians pinned in their own half.
Mohamed Shahril Saabah managed to reduce the deficit in the 50th minute when he netted a field goal. Malaysia continued to attack, but India held on to secure the crown. It was India’s second win over Malaysia, having won 6-2 in their earlier Super League clash.
Malaysian team manager Mohamed Nasihin Nubli praised the players for giving India a run for their money.
“It’s always difficult to come back when you are trailing 0-2, especially against a top team like India. But we are proud of the players as they did not let the pressure get to them.
“There were some mistakes initially but they grew stronger as the match progressed,” said Mohamed Nasihin.
Earlier in the third-placing match, Pakistan scored an emphatic 6-3 win over South Korea to take the bronze medal
Ajaz Ahmad scored a hattrick for Pakistan in the 10th, 30th and 36th minutes. Rashid Mehmood (26th), Abu Mahmood (32nd) and Mohamed Yaqoob (56th) were the other scorers.
The South Korean scorers were Cho Suk-hoon (20th), Lee Nam-yong (43rd) and Seo In-woo (55th).