ANTWERP: Malaysia’s Olympic dream was dealt a bitter blow when they lost to India in the quarter-finals of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals at the KHC Dragons Stadium.
Poor defending in the last quarter put paid to Malaysia's hopes of victory on Wednesday despite holding a 2-1 lead.
The Malaysians only have themselves to blame. They played well in the first three quarters but failed to stem a late fight back from the Indians - who already qualify for Rio as Asian champions.
Now it depends on how the Malaysians regain their composure in the remaining two matches to try and salvage the tournament. Malaysia could still qualify if they secure fifth placing in the classifications matches.
Malaysia had a penalty corner in the fifth minute but the Indians were fast enough to get it out of their danger zone.
But the second penalty corner in the 15th minute was well executed with Mohamed Razie Rahim scoring. And in the 23rd minute Mohamed Shahril Saabah added Malaysia’s second, also with a penalty corner goal.
But poor defending in the 48th minute saw India equalise through their sixth penalty corner taken by Jasjit Singh Kullar.
In the 55th minute, Jasjit was again on target from the team’s eighth penalty corner.
Malaysia also had a penalty corner in the last minute, but it came to naught.
“We held the game well in the early stages of the match and even up to the third quarter. But mistakes in the last quarter proved fatal,” said Malaysia’s team manager Stephen van Huizen.
“The players gave their best and we cannot ask for more. We did what was planned but the soft defending and giving away the penalty corners late in the match worked against us.
“Now it is a question of how high we can finish in the classification matches. There is a slim hope but that will depend on how the team regain their composure.”
Jasjit said that he was surprised to score the goals as he was not their main penalty corner flicker.
“It was a tough match and I was given the task of taking the penalty corner as Rupinder Singh was injured. I am glad to have scored. They proved to be important goals,” he added.
India will take on hosts Belgium - who defeated France 5-4 - for a spot in the final.
by S. Ramaguru - The Star