Malaysia prevailed 6-2 against Korea in a seesaw battle that fit the billing of a semifinal at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai on Friday.
Though the scoreline might hint at a lopsided affair, it was far from that. Insistence from both teams to assert control saw the contest start with a frantic pace. It was blow for blow, chance for chance, and an inch of space was all that both sides hunted for.
Korea broke in first in the second minute as Cheoleon Park’s poke at the goal from close range popped up kindly for Woo Cheon Ji off a Malaysian deflection. Ji gobbled up the chance and sent it past Hafizuddin Othman with a mid-air jab.
Malaysia hit right back after Abu Kamal Azrai’s galloping run into the circle was left unchecked by multiple Korean defenders. Azrai accepted the gift and unleashed a tomahawk to sound the board in the third minute.
Najmi Jazlan fired a slap shot into the net in the ninth minute for Malaysia’s second. The fact that Korea wasted its referral on trying to overturn the goal was the cherry on top.
Just when the Speedy Tigers thought they won the early exchanges, Jonghyun Jang ensured his side stayed afloat. He squeezed a bullet drag flick into the bottom left corner of the Malaysian goal in the dying seconds of the quarter.
But come the second quarter, Malaysia caused chinks in the Korean defence one circle penetration at a time. The play started moving closer and closer to the Korean circle with each passing minute, and Malaysia reaped its reward in the 19th minute.
Farhan Ashari won a short corner which Faizal Saari converted into a goal with his drag. Two minutes later, Malaysia added to its advantage. Ashran Hamsani’s dart into the circle was blocked illegally which got Malaysia a second corner. Jazlan charged full steam at the flick, bulging the roof of the net.
In the third period, however, Malaysia’s ingression into the Korean circle broke down. The forays, which looked well-rehearsed until that point, turned disjointed as errors crept in.
And in the 43rd minute, Korea got a chance to spring the contest back to life with a penalty stroke. Othman, however, was not having it. He slid to his left to deny Jihun Yang’s attempt. The custodian again came to Malaysia’s rescue, parrying away Jonghyun Jang’s penalty corner attack in the 45th.
Shello Silverius’ twin strikes early in the last quarter were the final blow to the Korean hopes. Hamsami made a solo incursion in the 47th minute from the left to set up a simple finish. A minute later, it was Najib Hasan’s turn to provide for Silverius, this time from the right side of the circle.
Result: Malaysia 6 (Abu Kamal Azrai 2’, Najmi Jazlan 9’ & 21’, Faizal Saari 19’, Shello Silverius 47’ & 48’) beat Korea (Woo Cheon Ji 2’, Jonghyun Jang 15’)
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