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Malaysia enhance semi-final chances
March 21, 2006 16:03 IST
Malaysia survived a scare before coming from behind to beat South Africa 2-1 and record their second victory in the men's hockey competition at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Ian Symonds gave South Africa the lead in the 26th minute, converting a penalty-corner.
It took Malaysia 19 minutes to draw parity through Logan Raj (45th minute) before Chua Boon Huat scored the match-winner for them in the 47th minute.
In case Malaysia and Pakistan draw their last league match, both teams will reach the semi-finals, though Malaysia will then have to play Olympic champions Australia.
The Aussies are looking as dangerous as ever and have won all their three matches to date, scoring 15 and conceding just two goals in their three matches.
The defending champions are set to top Group A, which means in the semi-finals, they will take on the runners-up of Group B, either Malaysia, Pakistan or even India.
Malaysia and Pakistan both have seven points but the latter heads the group because of a superior goal difference.
India and South Africa, who play on Wednesday, have four points each and victory for either of them will give them seven points, which means goal differences may come into play unless Malaysia and Pakistan draw their match.
Malaysia and Pakistan will certainly want to avoid meeting Australia in the semi-finals, as England or New Zealand, who are likely to finish second in the other group, behind Australia, should be easier opposition.''We are confident ahead of the Pakistan match. We used to have a phobia playing them, but now we see them as our equals,'' said Malaysian skipper S Kuhan.
''We may have been a little sluggish against South Africa but once we started moving we took control of the match. Our coach (Wallace Tan) made a tactical switch when he replaced our two forwards and the move paid dividends as we scored twice in two minutes,'' he explained.
''South Africa are actually harder to play against than India and I'm quite pleased that we already have one foot in the semi-finals,'' he added.
Wallace was a visibly happy man after the match.
''We were not considered medal hopefuls by many but we are now closer to the semifinals,'' he said.
''Our group is actually quite open but our fate is in our hands.
Although a point will be enough to guarantee us a place in the semifinals, it would be foolish to play for a draw,'' he said.UNI