Though their qualifiers are some three months away, the Chinese hockey team looked much sharper in the first of their five friendlies against the Malaysian side at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil this evening.
China scored two goals in the first half through skipper Song Yi in the 3rd minute and doubled their advantage through Sun Zhuhai in the 25th minute.
Mohd Amin Rahim converted a penalty corner in the 30th minute to reduce the deficit. And though they had chances towards the closing stages of the match to draw level, poor finishing let them down.
The lethargic performances of the Malaysian players was understandable given that they are undergoing grueling training sessions of late. However it was their lack of interest in the match that stood out like a sore thumb.
For the Chinese, the six matches in Kuala Lumpur will give them the much needed match practice after having being the first team in seven years to undertake a tour of Pakistan.
Though they lost all the 4 matches against Pakistan, they obviously have worked on newer tactics, the running out for penalty corners as an example. For China opted for two first runners and that somewht took the sting out of the normal potent Malaysian penalty corner battery.
"We will take a break for the Chinese New Year and resume training after that. We do not have a large pool of players and these 20 that we brought here are all that we have," said China team manager Yang Liu.
"It is a good result, to win against Malaysia is not easy. But then again I noticed that the Malaysian team have several new faces after the AHF Champions Trophy in Ordos last September.
"We are hoping to be more consistent in our performances and as preparation for the Olympic Qualifier in Japan next April, we intend to invite some teams to China to play matches.
"We lack quality matches and are fortunate that Malaysia agreed to these matches."