Hockey team pass stressful test to get into world’s top 10

On the double: Faizal Saari scored a brace in the win over Wales.

PETALING JAYA: After 17 years, the Malaysian senior men’s hockey team have found themselves back in the top 10 of the world rankings.

Malaysia moved back to the elite group after beating Wales 3-1 in the United Kingdom Tour Series at Reading Hockey Club on Tuesday.

The victory in their fourth test match, which is also the last of the Tour series, was also the second success in a row recorded by A. Arulselvaraj’s team against Wales after a narrow 4-3 win on Saturday.

With the two wins over Wales, Malaysia have now moved up to No. 10 in the world rankings, taking over from Canada who have dropped to 11th. Malaysia have 1,427.181 points while Canada have 1422.120.

Malaysia could not afford to lose to Wales, the world No. 18, and coach Arulselvaraj was pleased to see his charges achieve their goal in the tour series by learning to play and win matches in stressful situations.

“A good victory for Malaysian hockey and also Malaysian fans. This win was even sweeter as we went through a three-hour journey to get to the match venue, we played in cold weather and even rain,” said Arulselvaraj.

“We played well under pressure and we believed in our process. This is also our main purpose in the United Kingdom Tour because we want the players to play under pressure and win matches.”

In the second match against Wales, Faizal Saari emerged as the hero when he scored two goals in just a minute apart.

His first came from a penalty corner in the 17th minute and the second was a field goal in the 18th.

Ioan Wall closed the gap for Wales by converting a penalty corner in the 58th minute but Muhd Razie Abdul Rahim slotted home a penalty corner in the 59th to confirm Malaysia’s victory.

Apart from the two wins over Wales, Malaysia also recorded one win and one loss against Ireland, in their four test matches in the United Kingdom.

Malaysia next face France in a friendly match at the Wales Hockey Centre in Cardiff tomorrow.

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