KUALA LUMPUR – The national hockey squad kicked off their World Hockey League (HWL) semifinal campaign with a win by beating China 3-2 in a Group B opening match held at the K.H.C Dragons Stadium, in Antwerp, Belgium, Sunday.
Malaysia took the lead through a brilliant strike by Faizal Saari from a tight angle in the 18th minute before Muhammad Haziq Shamsul added a second goal on the stroke of half time.
China dragged themselves back into the game in the third quarter, with Guo Xiaoping slotting home from close range in the 38th minute before the lower-ranked Chinese were awarded a penalty stroke, minutes later.
However, Malaysia decided to use their right to a video referral to good effect to overturn the decision.
Malaysia extended their advantage to 3-1 in the final quarter via a penalty corner from team captain Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim but China hit back immediately through Zhang Zhixuan’s neat deflection.
With today’s victory, Malaysia who are drawn in Group B with China, Ireland, Belgium and Great Britain, picked up three points.
The players from both teams were wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for the death of Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar’s youngest son and a minute of silence was observed before the start of the match.
Kumar who had arrived in Belgium with the Malaysian squad had to return home yesterday after the unfortunate news.
Malaysia are scheduled to meet Ireland on June 25.
Malaysia, ranked World Number 12, need to finish among the top three teams in the competition to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil.