AZLAN SHAH CUP: Malaysia turn on the style to keep final hopes aliveMALAYSIA whipped the daylights out of China when seven different players scored in the 7-3 win in the 23rd Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh yesterday.
Goal difference could come into the picture as Malaysia, who confirmed a berth in the third-fourth placing match, make a dash for the final with only the match against Australia on Saturday remaining where they need to keep the score low.
China were the early aggressors, but cheered on by a capacity crowd, Malaysia took an early lead after they started with an attack oriented lineup instead of a defensive side.
And in the sixth minute, Marhan Jalil's cracking shot from the top of the semi-circle went crashing into the roof of the net for the much needed lead.
The opening goal was just the tonic for another push, and the first penalty corner was won in the eighth minute.
Ahmad Kazamirul's dummy went to Shahril Saabah, whose flick was saved by the goalkeeper but in came Azlan Misron who slapped in the rebound for the second goal in the ninth minute.
Missing from the match was striker Faizal Saari, who was suspended for one match yesterday morning after tournament director Gavin Hawke from New Zealand found his conduct during the Canada match unbecoming.
On Monday, Faizal was yellow carded in the 24th minute for hitting Canadian Jagdish Gill, and instead of sitting it out, he hit the sin-bin chair with his hockey stick and broke it.
The four-goal striker was then suspended for the match against China, and coach K. Dharmaraj had to push skipper and defender Azlan into the forwardline.
And the coach's reshuffle paid dividends as Malaysia went on a first half rampage and in the 23rd minute, off their third penalty corner, Kazamirul's push found Izzat Hakimi who tucked in to make it 3-0.
Three minutes later, it was the turn of experienced striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil to slam in the ball from an acute angle for his first of the tournament, as Malaysia cruised at 4-0.
The fifth goal was another masterpiece, as Shahril got his name on the scoreboard with a tap-in in the 30th minute.
China pulled one back when E Liguang scored in the 44th, but a minute later Malaysian were awarded a penalty stroke and Fitri Saari scored from the spot to make it 6-1.
The second China goal was scored off a penalty stroke by Du Talake in the 60th minute, but Firhan Ashaari made it 7-2 in the 62nd minute.
In the end, the final score was 7-3, as Du Talake got his second in the 66th.
"I did expect my players to pull off a win, but the score was not expected as the players pushed themselves to the limit," said Dharmaraj.
As for Azlan, who from a defender was promoted to striker, Dharmaraj said: "This is a new trend which I will propagate, as I look to make players versatile and able to play in any position when required."