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Japan surprise Malaysia
rediff.com Sportsdesk |
September 22, 2003 19:46 IST
Last Updated: September 22, 2003 20:45 IST
Naohiko Tobita did the star turn for Japan, scoring twice in a surprise 3-2 victory over hosts Malaysia in the sixth Asia Cup hockey tournament, at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur, on Monday.
The victory, which followed a 7-3 rout of Hong Kong on Sunday assured Japan a berth in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Tobita could have well finished with a hat-trick but he was denied one by Malaysia's goalkeeper, Mohammad Nasihin Ibrahim, who saved a penalty-stroke from him.
In the other match of the day, Pakistan proved too good for China, winning 7-1 and making it to the semi-finals.
Nadeem Ahmed, Sohail Abbas and Kashif Jawad scored two goals apiece after Salim Khalid had opened the scoring for Pakistan in the 18th minute.
China got their goal following a penalty-corner, a minute before the breather, through captain Lu Peng.
Pakistan are well-placed atop Pool B and India will have to beat Bangladesh by a huge margin tomorrow to make sure of a better goal difference in the event of their match against Pakistan ending in a draw.
Malaysia, who had held fancied South Korea 1-1 in their opening match on Sunday, paid the price for poor execution of the penalty-corner drill, while the Japanese seized the chances that came their way to emerge worthy winners.
Japan, who placed fifth behind Malaysia in the last edition of the tournament in 1999, take on South Korea next in their concluding Pool A match, which will decide the winner of the pool.
They forged ahead in the sixth minute through Tobita and then consolidated with two minutes left for the breather when the opportunistic striker got his second goal.
In the second session, Malaysia were more forceful but were unable to create much of an impression on a well-organised Japanese defence. Though their captain, Kuhan Shanmuganathan, pulled a goal back to raise hopes of a fightback in the 54th minute, the Japanese added another goal in the 62nd minute through Takahiko Yamabori, who scored from the only penalty-corner they earned.
Tajol Roslie Mohamad converted Malaysia's eighth penalty-corner three minute from the end, but could not prevent his side from going down.