Malaysia Tigers endured another ‘fright night’ before overcoming Korea 3-1 in penalty shootouts to clinch the bronze medal in the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy in Kuatan.
It was Malaysia’s fourth bronze medal in four editions of the Asian Champions Trophy since 2011 in Ordos, China.
India defeated Pakistan 3-2 in the final. The Indians savoured victory five years after edging Pakistan 4-2 in penalty shootout to win their maiden title in Ordos, China in 2011. Pakistan won the trophy in 2012 (Doha, Qatar) and 2013 (Kakamigahara, Japan).
Goalkeeper S. Kumar, at 36 and the highly capped player among the Tigers, Firhan Ashari, Faizal Saari and Nabil Mohammad Noor turned the game around by scoring all three goals. Kumar, on his part, stopped Jung Manjae, Kim Hyeongjin and Jeong Junwoo from scoring. Only Kang Moonkyu got past the Malaysian custodian.
Malaysia Tigers head coach, Stephen van Huizen, said: “We did not want to finish the tournament on a low after playing some good hockey in the pool matches. Even the semi-finals against Pakistan the players gave their best although our performance was below par.”
“A lot of players sacrificed a lot on the field including Faizal Saari who had to rush home as his wife delivered and came back the next day from a long journey. It was an overall team effort and I am happy we managed to win the medal,” added Van Huizen.
There was hardly a scent of a raucous atmosphere in this third-fourth play-off match between Korea and Malaysia unlike the Malaysia-Pakistan semi-finals encounter on Saturday which drew more than 5,000 fans.
The atmosphere was quite sedate and sombre. Except for the 15 Ultras Malaya members prodding Malaysia Tigers with patriotic songs, an estimated 2,500 were still draped and mourning the ‘painful’ defeat by the Pakistanis 24 hours earlier.
Dark clouds loomed over this east coast city of Kuantan before the start of the match. Perhaps this was a hint of how today’s proceedings would go on the pitch.
And true enough, a light drizzle enveloped throughout the match that saw the Malaysians and Koreans battle for almost 13 minutes with near misses. Malaysia Tigers earned the first penalty corner in the seventh minute but drag-flick specialist Razie Rahim’s push was stopped by Yang Jihun near the top of semi-circle. But Malaysia Tigers got the most of the counter-attacks to take the lead in the 14th minute via a Shahril Saabah penalty corner.
But Paul Lissek-coached Korea was back in the thick of action in the second quarter, earning a penalty corner in the 17th minute and Jung Manjae scored the equaliser.
However, the match was one filled with climax for the entire remaining duration but it was simply a case of near misses. Malaysia Tigers picked six penalty corners in total while the Koreans had three. In the end it was another fright night for fans here as the match went into penalty shootout.
This India and Pakistan final had all the ingredients of high drama and great intensity. It was the best match fans here had seen between the world No 6 Indians and Pakistan, ranked 13. Not even the pool match between the two nations which India won 3-2 takes the limelight.
Apart from the coveted trophy which was presented to the Indians by Pahang State Chief Minister, YAB. Dato’ Sri Diraja Haji Adnan Yaakob, every player and official of the winning Indian team also received a Swiss-made Bernard H. Mayer wrist watch presented by title sponsors QNET.
India’s head coach, Roelant Otmans, said: “We were making mistakes but got away with it. Nevertheless, this was a good win for India as the last time India won a major title was the Asian Games in 2014.
“The good thing is we got back on track and played to our game plan. The win today shows we are making progress.”
India kept the prolific PR Sreejesh on the bench and introduced Akash Chikte in goal while Pakistan rolled out Amjad Ali for Imran Butt.
The first half ended scoreless with India rattling Pakistan with their pace. The Pakistanis made some good moves but could not capitalize on it and India won the first penalty corner in the seventh minute but Jasjit Singh Kular's flick went far wide.
However, the real drama unfolded in the second quarter. Rupinder Pal Singh converted India's second penalty corner in the 17th minute to give India 1-0 lead over Pakistan, blasting a powerful shot past Amjad.
The Indians shot 2-0 ahead in the 23rd minute. Sardar Singh relays a long pass to Ramandeep Singh who slides the ball in and Affan Yousuf picks it up and deflects the ball into goal.
Pakistan roared back in style, taking advantage of a lapse in the Indian defence through a penalty corner in the 26th minute. Aleem Muhammad Bilal converts and Ali Shaan equalised with a field goal in the 38th minute - his second goal of the tournament.
India had a great chance to go 3-2 in the very next minute. Kothajit Khadangbam’s shot from outside the circle crashes through the defence and lands into goal. India celebrated but umpire Peter Wright from South Africa called for a referral. The video clip shows the ball went inside without any deflection from the Indian forwards and thus was ruled out.
But the night belonged to India after Ramandeep passes the ball to Nikkin Thimmaiah and the latter fires it inside to the right of Amjad to give India a 3-2 lead for the third time in the match and victory.
3RD – 4TH playoff – Korea 1 Malaysia 1 (Malaysia won 3-1 on penalty shootout)
Final – India 3 Pakistan 2