MALAYSIA’S men’s hockey team stunned defending champions India in the semi-finals to inch closer to an early ticket for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Goalkeeper S. Kumar was the hero for Malaysia when the team won 7-6 in a nail-biting sudden death penalty shootout, after the match ended 2-2 at Gelora Bung Karno Hockey Stadium last night.
The first shootout ended 2-2 forcing the sudden death which saw Malaysia triumph 5-4.
Malaysia will take on Japan in the final tomorrow. The champions qualify automatically for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Tampin-born player, who made four saves in the shootout, credited the win to teamwork as they advanced to the final.
“I fell in the last shootout from India but I instinctively put my hand up and the ball hit it. I can say we got lucky. I told the players to focus on scoring the goals and I’ll do my part to stop India from scoring,” said Kumar.
“This is a team effort, we were down in regulation time but managed to get back into the game in the end. I may have made the saves in the shootout but my teammates did their part to score as well.
“We are proud of this performance but this is not the end yet, we need to regroup for the final match. We can’t get carried away now.”
Both teams were equally matched in the first half which saw the game stuck in a deadlock due to excellent defending from both sides.
The stalemate was finally broken in the second half after India’s Harmanpreet Singh scored off a penalty corner in the 32nd minute but the lead only lasted five minutes as forward Faisal Saari scored a field goal in the 39th minute to equalise.
India got back in front almost immediately after Varun Kumar slammed the goal in through a penalty corner in the 39th minute.
With the match slipping off, Malaysia coach Stephen van Huizen resorted to power play by taking out goalkeeper Kumar and bringing in Faiz Helmi Jali to pressure the Indian defence in the final three minutes.
And the move paid dividends as they earned a penalty corner and Razie converted to draw level in the 59th minute and hold on to force the match into a penalty shootout.
via Malaysia Star Images : World Sport Pics