PETALING JAYA: Malaysia rose to the occasion to stun Olympic champions Argentina 2-1 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup men’s hockey tournament.
Veteran Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin gave the home team the lead in the 20th minute before Najmi Farizal Jazlan scored what turned out to be the winner in the 28th minute at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh yesterday.
Diego Paz pulled one back for Argentina in the 32nd minute to set up a frantic finish in one of the most entertaining match of the championship.
But try as they might, the world No. 2 Argentina just couldn’t break down a spirited Malaysian side skippered by Razie Rahim.
It is Malaysia’s first victory over Argentina in 17 years. The last time they beat Argentina was in 2001 with a 4-2 win.
Yet despite being heavily stacked against the odds, coach Stephen Van Huizen’s team started the match on the front foot and earned the first two penalty corners in the first quarter.
Although they failed to convert, it gave them the belief to attack their more fancied opponents.
And the efforts paid off in the 20th minute after 32-year-old Tengku Ahmad skilfully sneaked the ball past Argentine goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi in a goalmouth scramble.
The goal stung the South Americans into action and they earned two penalty corners but specialist Gonzalo Peillat couldn’t convert.
Then, against the run of play, Malaysia scored again.
A quick attack down the left flank saw Faizal Saari direct a pass into the circle. Defender Najmi, who was an unlikely presence in attack, was in the right place at the right time as he knocked the ball past Vivaldi.
Argentina almost hit back immediately as they earned a penalty stroke following two penalty corner attempt by Peillat.
But goalkeeper Hafizuddin guessed the right way to deny Juan Gilardi and Malaysia took a two-goal lead into half-time.
Argentina came out breathing fire after the break and pulled one back in the 32nd minute after a long pass by Pedro Ibarra caught the Malaysian defence napping and Paz duly tapped home.
But that was as far as Argentina got as they just couldn’t find a way past Malaysia.
Even Peillat, who has six goals to his name so far, fired blanks despite having seven penalty corners in total.
The win is certainly one to savour for Stephen’s men after they were twice beaten – 4-2 and 2-1 – at the World League semi-finals last year.
The win also means Malaysia are tied with Argentina with six points although they are in third place due to goal difference.
World champions Australia currently lead the six-nation standings with nine points, after getting their third straight win by beating India 4-2 in an earlier match.
In another match, England registered their first win of the competition by thumping Ireland 4-1.
Malaysia, the lowest ranked team in the tournament at No. 12, will now look to carry their good form when they play India today.
Argentina on the other hand will look to bounce back when they meet England.
England 4 Ireland 1
Australia 4 India 2
Malaysia 2 Argentina 1
Australia vs Ireland 4.05pm
Argentina vs England 6.05pm
Malaysia vs India 8.35pm