FIH Men’s Series Finals: Malaysia gets better of Austria after a tough fight
Two goals in the last six minutes helped the host Malaysia to enter the final of the FIH Men’s Series Finals with a 3-1 win over Austria in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Malaysia will now play Canada in the final while Austria will take on Italy to decide third and fourth positions on Saturday. The win for Malaysia brought cheers to a sizeable crowd that had assembled at National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
After a series of ups and downs in the tournament, the top two ranked teams – Canada number 10 and Malaysia number 13 – will ultimately figure in the summit clash.The semi-finals, however, brought to an end excellent run by both Italy and Austria, the low ranked teams, who upset the applecart of some of their better ranked opponents in the pool games. It may sound strange that after domination in the pool games, none of the European teams, could make it to the gold medal match. Playing under pressure to deliver, the hosts started well and had the consolation of taking an early lead. After a brilliant run down the flank by Abu Kamal Azlan in the 10th minute, it was Faizal Sara who made no mistake from the penalty corner.
In fact, Abu could have got the home team lead in the sixth minute when his brilliant run down the right flank saw Akhimullah Anvar shooting over the cross piece from the middle of the striking circle. Malaysia dominated the first half and had a couple of good scoring chances even in the second quarter. Austrians, who tried to match their opponents in speed, marksmanship and interceptions, were little unlucky not to connect the goanward attempts till the third minute of the second half. It was Leon Thirnblom who latched on to a brilliant centre and deflected it in to make the score 1-1.Austria was, however, handicapped shortly afterwards as two of its players were shown yellow cards, one for 10 minutes.
There was some respite for the Europeans as one of Malaysians – Akhiimullah Anwar – who shot even after a whistle has been blown for a penalty corner was given the marching order. Brisk exchanges notwithstanding, both teams were unable to break the 1-1 deadlock till the game was 54 minutes old. From a penalty corner in the 54t minute, it was Jalil Marham, who picked up a feeble rebound as the Austrian goalkeeper desperately tried to clear the ball, hoisted Malaysia’s second goal to the great jubilation by the home crowd. Two minutes from the final whistle, Hasan Azuam made it 3-1 with a brilliant solo. Though there was a skirmish after an Austrian was brought down in the last minute, umpires intervened to diffuse the situation. Battle lines have been now drawn for the final between Malaysia and Canada.