Malaysia booked their place in the semi final of the Asia Cup when they overcame a spirited Japan 3-2 at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh last night.
Coming back from 0-2 down against the 16th ranked Japanese was to be expected but Malaysia cannot afford such luxury against India, their expected opponents in Friday’s semi final.
Not so when Indian coach Roelant Oltmans made it clear that the Asia Cup actually starts on Friday, showing the seriousness of the task Malaysia is expected to face.
Malaysia played poorly in the opening 35 minutes and were a shade lucky going into the break on level terms as Japan caved in under pressure.
“It was a nervy start by the team, perhaps they were over cautious since the stakes were high. Thus Japan took advantage of our apprehensive start to score the two goals,” said coach Paul Revington.
“But the players stuck to the game plan and were back on level terms before halftime. I think overall we dominated the match but there are many areas that we need to shore up, especially in the middle of the defence.
“Though our opponents in the semis will only be determined after the matches tomorrow (Wednesday), it ls obvious that we will play India. And looking at them they have been impressive, tactically sond and play with a high level of discipline. So it will be an interesting match on Friday.”
Another area that Malaysia needs to work on is their penalty corner as they were awarded seven penalty corners in the match but scored from two. Overall in the tournament thus far Malaysia have been awarded a total of 19 penalty corners with six finding the back of the net.
Japan went 2-0 ahead in the opening ten minutes, taking full advantage of a listless display by the Malaysians.
Toshiro Tachibana got the first off a penalty corner in the 6th minute, his attempt taking a wicked deflection from Mohd Marhan Jalil to wrong foot Malaysian custodian S. Kumar.
Two minutes later they doubled the advantage as Kei Kawakami deflected the ball past Kumar with the Malaysian defenders asleep.
The fightback started in the 14th minute with Mohd Razie Rahim converting a penalty corner before Firhan Ashaari scored with a delightful reverse hit in the 28th minute to make it all square.
Faisal Saari converted a penalty corner in the 60th minute with Azlan Misron making it 4-2 in the 66th minute to give Malaysia the win, But it is the overall performance that Revington and his coaching staff will be worried about.
Pakistan 13 Chinese Taipei 0
Malaysia 4 Japan 2