Scotland men’s best ever Games finish despite close defeat to Malaysia

Scotland 1-2 Malaysia (A. Forsyth / S. Saabah, A. Arshad)

 Scotland men finished sixth at Gold Coast 2018, their best ever finish at a Commonwealth Games, after they were beaten 2-1 by Malaysia in the 5th/6th play-off. It was a tremendous effort by the Blue Sticks in a great contest that could have went either way.

Scotland got off to a good start; a swift break into the Malaysian D saw the ball set up for Alan Forsyth, but his effort was defended well to smother the shot and deny Scotland an early lead.

Then Malaysia come forward and put the ball in the net but it was disallowed for a back stick in the build-up.

Scotland continued to attack. Some delightful hockey by the Scots saw a string of quick precise passes to open up Malaysia and win a penalty corner.

Kenny Bain struck it well and Duncan Riddell tried to deflect the ball into the net but it went wide of the mark.

Scotland’s positivity was rewarded by the opening goal of the match. An excellent injection of pace through the middle saw Grassick have a shot saved before Alan Forsyth popped up at the right place, and at the right time, to score and make it 1-0.

In the second quarter Malaysia began to edge back into the contest. They opened the Scots defence up to go through one-on-one, but an excellent save by Tommy Alexander kept Scotland’s lead intact.

Then came a Malaysian equaliser. They tore down the right and crashed the ball into the D, and Shahril Saabah popped up at the far post to score and make it 1-1.

The game was end-to-end as the half came to a close. A great save by Alexander diving to his left from a penalty corner kept Scotland on level pegging.

Then Forsyth slammed the ball into the net from a penalty corner but it was higher than the backboard and overturned.

In the second half a top save from a penalty corner denied Scotland before Malaysia came close when a turn and shot zipped wide of the post.

It was Malaysia who took the lead in the third quarter. Amirol Arshad was the injector at a penalty corner and he scored when the well-worked routine saw the ball fizzed back to him to score, and make it 2-1 to Malaysia.

The final quarter began as a midfield battle and the Scots showed tremendous grit and determination to try and fight for an equaliser.

A chance for Rob Harwood was saved at the near post with five minutes to go – Malaysia were holding firm.

Scotland then went to kicking back with three mins to go, with William Marshall taking the jersey.

Right at the death Forsyth came so close to equalising with a powerful shot on the turn but a great save broke Scottish hearts and Malaysia held on for the win.

Regardless of the result Scotland men’s sixth place finish is their best ever finish at a Commonwealth Games, and a tremendous achievement for the Blue Sticks.

Scotland Captain Chris Grassick said, “Overall we’re delighted with the tournament, instantly I’m a bit gutted as we didn’t get more out of the game. Then they’re twelfth in the world and we’re 23rd, we gave a pretty good fight and could have snatched a draw at the end. Overall we’ve got to be delighted with how we did.

“We’re a team on an upward curve, we’re back up amongst the best teams in Europe and I think we deserve to be there, so we need to keep building.”

Scotland goal scorer Alan Forsyth said, “We’re a wee bit disappointed because we felt like we had chances there to take something, but with the performances we’ve had against the top teams in this tournament I think we’ll look at it in the long term as being absolutely brilliant. We’re so proud of each other. We’ve only had ten days together since August so this is a huge achievement for all the boys in the squad.”

Paul Elliott - Scotland Hockey | Husted Images
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