Malaysia failed to finish on the podium for the first time in an FIH event when they went down 4-3 to Ireland in the bronze playoff at the Champions Challenge in Argentina this morning.
It was the same malady, failing to hold on to a lead in the final minutes of the match that cost them an historical finish in what started off brightly, coming from a goal down to take a 3-2 lead with only two minutes remaining.
Instead they succumbed to a golden goal against a team ranked lower then them and thus ould not sustain the four match winning start they had for the tournament.
Still it was a good outing as the fourth place finish equals the one achieved in the inaugural Champions Challenge in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur where Malaysia finished fourth amongst six teams participating.
A Golden Goal from Peter Caruth gave Ireland a sensational extra-time victory over Malaysia to claim the Bronze medal at the Argentina Hockey Champions Challenge in Quilmes. It was a remarkable achievement for a team playing in their first ever Champions Challenge 1, and one that their players will never forget.
Will McCabe gave Ireland a dream start in their hunt for Bronze with a breath-taking strike from the right, picking up a pass from Michael Watt before hammering a low drive beyond the despairing Kumar Subramiam.
It was a goal that rattled the Malaysians, who struggled to find any kind of form in the opening 15 minutes. However, Malaysian confidence was restored in the 18th minute thanks to Ismail Abu, who got a crucial touch in the circle to tie the scores at 1-1.
The Malaysians started looking more like the team that had impressed so much in the early part of this tournament, but the Irish upped their game and moved ahead when Conor Harte fired home a penalty corner eight minutes before half time.
Early in the second half, Caruth had a glorious opportunity to put some breathing space between his team and the Malaysians, but the strike failed to hit the target after a high quality attacking move. Ireland’s failure to put the game out of the reach of their Malaysian opponents cost them dear in the 50th minute, when Faizal Saari produced a moment of brilliance.
A Malaysian counter-attack found Saari on the half way line, with the attacker running fully 40 meters before unleashing a fierce strike into the roof of the Irish net to make the score 2-2.
Malaysia thought that they had won the match in normal time when Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor was on hand to tap in following another great save from David Harte in the 67th minute. Incredibly, Ireland went straight down the other end and levelled the scores at 3-3, with Conor Harte netting another penalty corner variation to delight the Irish fans in the crowd.
Harte’s goal sent the match into extra time, with Ireland playing the early stages with ten players on the field due to a yellow card shown to Eugene Magee towards the end of normal time. The Malaysians exploited the extra space available due to Ireland’s shortfall, but were denied time and time again by the brilliance of goalkeeper David Harte.
However, the match turned back in Ireland’s favour when Magee returned to the field, before the decisive moment arrived early in the second period of extra time. The outstanding Peter Caruth surged into the circle and smashed an unstoppable reverse stick shot into the Malaysian net before wheeling away in celebration. It was a fine moment for him and the Ireland, a team that appear to be constantly progressing on the world stage.