Canada are the first team to qualify for the final of the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan. They defeated host nation Malaysia 5-4 in a dramatic shoot-out competition. After regulation time the score was tied at 2-2. Earlier, Canada had come back after being 2-0 behind.
"I am proud of my players, they played well, but unfortunately we lost in the shoot-outs", said Malaysia coach Muhammad Dhaarma Raj. "We will do our best in the bronze medal match as we want to finish as high as possible.“
Malaysia forced an early penalty corner when Fitri Saari found a Canadian foot in the circle. The corner was neatly taken by his brother Faizal Saari (3’) firing the ball home to bring the Speedy Tigers ahead. Canada had slightly more ball possession throughout the following 12 minutes but they struggled to create promising chances.
While being forced to defend, Malaysia focused on counter-attacking. One breakaway led to a second goal when Ismail Abu (15’) shot from close range. The home team nearly added a third goal but Ahmad Nasruddin was unable to control the ball in front of the empty goal. “We started the match under immense pressure. Full credit to our guys to hold on”, admits Canada coach Anthony Farry.
Canada struck back in the second quarter through team-captain Scott Tupper (21’) who scored his fourth goal in this tournament. After Canada had got on the scoreboard, the big crowd in the Stadium Wisma Belia felt that the host nation need vocal support and cheered even louder. The Speedy Tigers pushed for another goal but they could not get any shots away that really troubled the Canadian goalkeeper David Carter. “We tried to stop Malaysia’s individual brilliance”, added Farry.
Canada found themselves under pressure in the third quarter but the defence held firm. Then, the crowd witnessed three penalty corners being awarded within three minutes. First, Tupper’s attempt was denied, then, Malaysia failed to convert before Canada managed to win their third penalty corner at the other end. This time, Tupper’s flick was brilliantly parried by Malaysia goalie Kumar Subramiam.
Team Canada, having one man less in the squad because of Sukhi Panesar’s red card suspension, eventually equalised from their fourth penalty corner when Tupper’s (60’) flick found its way into the net with just 10 minutes remaining. Both teams created enough chances to finish the game but were unable to score.
The shoot-out was a dramatic affair as the score was tied at 2-2 after each team had had five attempts. The shoot-out continued as a one-on-one competition with the 16th shot making the difference. While Fitri Saari was denied on the Malaysian side, Adam Froese scored for Canada to lift his team into the goal medal match.