South Korea clung on to its semifinal berth despite a 1-0 loss to Malaysia in the Asian Champions Trophy here on Wednesday.
In what was a crucial game, Korea failed to exert any real pressure on its Malaysian counterparts, who, despite the narrow win, looked in control for most parts. Malaysia moved to the top spot after its third win.
Korea had goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon to thank for his numerous saves, ensuring the scoreline remained 1-0, which meant Japan couldn’t displace it at fourth place in the table. Jaehyeon’s saves included a first-quarter reflex boot to keep out Razie Rahim’s dragflick and a close-range save of Fitri Saari in the third.
Some indiscipline led to three green cards for Malaysia, including two in a cagey opening quarter, but the Speedy Tigers rode out any possible threat from the Koreans.
Malaysia’s opening goal came after a sustained spell of possession in the second quarter and by moving the ball quickly from one side to another. In the 22nd minute, Faiz Jali sucked in the Korean defence towards him before finding Abdu Muhajir in space inside the circle. Muhajir squared the ball into Ashran Hamsani, who in turn set up an unmarked Azrai Akmal to turn the ball into the board.
After the goal, Korea got on the ball but couldn’t muster any real opening. The Koreans earned a penalty corner from which Jihun Yang fired wide. The numbers also backed Malaysia’s dominance with 58 percent ball possession and double the circle entries of Korea’s in what was a cagey start to the game.
Late in the third quarter, a mis-trap from Lee Seunghoon allowed Fitri to run at goal but Jaehyeon rushed out to block his tomahawk. Korea skipper Manjae Jung received a five-minute suspension for dangerous play but it didn’t cost his side another goal.
Korea finally reacted in the final quarter and had a spell of possession but only ended up running into Malaysian defenders or finding their sticks.
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