SINGAPORE: Malaysia turned on the style when it mattered most, hammering Poland 8-0 to win the World Hockey League Second Round at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.
It was Malaysia’s first International Hockey Federation (FIH) tournament win since winning a five-nation meet in Paris in 2010.
Malaysia brought their A game to Sunday’s final after a lacklustre semi-final victory over Japan, which needed a penalty shootout to break a 1-1 deadlock in regulation time - and it was certainly value for money to the 3,000 fans in attendance.
Skipper Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim was the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick in the seventh, 21st and 59th minutes.
Forward Faizal Saari added a brace in the third and 33rd minutes. Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor (42nd), Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (48th) and Mohd Haziq Samsul (54th) contributed the other goals.
Faizal ended the tournament as the top scorer with 12 goals.
Malaysia, the top ranked side in the tournament at world No. 12, played like men possessed from the get-go.
Mohd Firhan Ashaari had a golden opportunity to give Malaysia the lead in the very first minute, but his hit from the top of the semi-circle just went inches wide.
Malaysia did not have to wait long as Faizal fired past goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak to give Malaysia the lead off their first penalty corner in the third minute.
And four minutes later, defender Razie doubled the score off a low flick from Malaysia’s third penalty corner.
Malaysia kept up the pressure and increased the lead to 3-0 in the 21st minute. Razie was on target again from another penalty corner.
Malaysia continued to surge forward and they made it 4-0 through Faizal in the 33rd minute.
Malaysia kept up the pressure to score another four goals in the third and fourth quarters.
Poland earned five penalty corners in the last two quarters but goalkeeper S. Kumar did well to stop all the attempts.
Malaysian team manager Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad was delighted with his players’ commitment and performance.
“Our players played their hearts out and totally dominated the match. I was confident of a win but never expected by such a big margin.
“Our strategy of going for early goals paid off well and it put a lot of pressure on our opponents,” said Nur Azmi.
“It is really nice to win the tournament to qualify for the World League Semi-Finals in Belgium in June.
“Our mission now is to do well in Belgium and qualify for next year’s Olympics. We have not featured in the Olympics since Sydney in 2000,” added Nur Azmi.
Poland and third-placed Japan also qualified for the World League Semi-Finals.
by Aftar Singh - The Star