Firdaus and Arif return to lead Malaysia juniors to first win in tour

Fine strike: Arif Syafie Ishak (right) scored from a penalty corner against Wales on Saturday.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian junior hockey team, boosted by the return of striker Noor Firdaus Mohd Rosdi and defender Arif Syafie Ishak, registered their first victory in the playing tour of the United Kingdom.

The duo’s return, after missing the last two games, gave the juniors the must-needed drive to edge the Wales Under-23 team 2-1 at the Wales Hockey Centre on Saturday.

It was their first win in five matches. Earlier they lost to Repton (0-2), England Under-21 (2-3), England U-21 (0-2) and the fourth game 1-3 to Hampstead and Westminster.

Firdaus netted a field goal in the 48th minute and eight minutes later Arif scored a penalty corner for Malaysia’s victory. Wales’ consolation goal was scored in the 58th minute.

The return of the two rejuvenated the squad but what impressed manager I. Vikneswaran the most is the team’s character and development.

“The boys gave their all against Wales yesterday. For us, what was more important is the process. A win is good but we are here to build on the coach’s philosophy and outlook from game to game,” said Vikneswaran.

“Their set-piece defending, movement, plays and attacking dimensions are improving, and we have to get this done before we go to the Junior World Cup in India from Nov 24 to Dec 5.

“Take the last two minutes of the game as an example.

“Because of green cards, we only had eight players on the pitch, and they needed to maintain their lead. They did it, and I was happy with the way they kept their composure.

“This kind of situation will be vital in our preparations for the World Cup. Also good to see some of our key players recovering and helping the team again.”

The juniors will face the England Under-21 team again at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre tomorrow.

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