Hangzhou Asiad: Speedy Tigers’ golden dream in tatters after draw with China
02 Oct 2023 11:34pm
The Malaysian men’s hockey team’s dream of clinching the Asian Games gold medal was dashed when they failed to make the semi-finals after being held 4-4 by hosts China at the Gongshu Canal Sports Park Stadium tonight. - Facebook
The final Group B clash proved to be a dramatic one, with China remaining unbeaten to emerge as the group champions with 13 points and they will meet Japan in Wednesday’s semi-finals.
Malaysia, who finished third with 10 points behind second-placed South Korea (12 points), will compete in the 5th-6th classification match against Pakistan on Friday (Oct 6).
World number 10 Malaysia began their Group B campaign in style, thrashing Thailand 9-0, Oman 11-1 and Indonesia 9-2, but question marks emerged as to whether they could make the semis when they were edged 4-3 by South Korea two days ago.
Taking to the field knowing that only a win would do, Malaysia went on the offensive right from the first whistle but it was China who drew first blood in the 13th minute through a penalty corner goal by Gao Jiesheng.
The Speedy Tigers, as the Malaysian men’s hockey team are known, hit back in the 18th minute to silence the 4,000-odd home fans through a Muhammad Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal penalty corner goal.
But a minute later, world number 22 China restored their lead through a Chen Qijun penalty corner setpiece before Mohamad Ashran Hamsani made it 2-2 through a Mohamad Ashran Hamsani field goal in the 25th minute.
In the third quarter, the Speedy Tigers, guided by coach A. Arulselvaraj, led for the first time when they went 3-2 up through a penalty corner goal by Muhammad Najmi Farizal Jazlan in the 35th minute but their joy was shortlived as China made it 3-3 through a Pan Dongquan penalty stroke just one minute later.
Mohd Amirul Hamizan Azhar put Malaysia 4-3 up in the 40th minute through a penalty corner setpiece but, again, China hit back to level the scores through Zhu Weijiang just three minutes later.
The Speedy Tigers had a great chance to seal victory when they were awarded a penalty corner just 40 seconds before the final whistle but they failed to find the target.
The result also saw Malaysia missing out on an automatic slot in the 2024 Paris Olympics as Asian Games champions and will instead have to endure a more difficult path through the Qualifying Tournament that will be held early next year.
Speaking to reporters after the match, a disappointed Arulselvaraj hopes to end their campaign in the best position so that they can earn a spot in the qualifiers.
"The desire to win is there but there is a significant weakness in terms of dealing with the long ball. Each time they (China) got into the D (penalty box), they got something. In this competition, we also saw that our one-on-one defending is quite worrying.
"We can't stop here. We need to get the best position in the 5th-6th classification, (we) must fight for a place in the Olympics. From the Asian Games, only four or five teams will qualify for the qualifying tournament, so we need to finish in the best position possible," he said.
The Speedy Tigers' best achievement in the Asiad was winning silver in the 2010 edition in Guangzhou, China and the 2018 edition in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia.
So far, hosts France, Oceania Cup champions Australia and EuroHockey Championship winners the Netherlands have confirmed their places in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
They will be joined by the Asian, African and Pan American champions as well as the three best teams each from the two Qualifying Tournaments to be held in Muscat, Oman and Valencia, Spain next year. - BERNAMA
Hon Thien How, the national women's doubles head coach, stressed the normalcy of ups and downs in doubles partnerships. - FILE PIX by Bernama
Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh when met by reporters after the signing of an MoU between UiTM and the National Sports Council at the Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Chancellery building, today. - Photo by Bernama