The Malaysians Colts once against put up a brave performance in the 10th Sultan of Johor Cup, this time against Japan, to pull off a 2-2 draw at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium today.
Japan took the lead in the 34th minute through Masato Kobayashi but the Malaysians rallied back strongly to go 2-1 up with strikes from Muhammad Mamat (39th minute) and Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi (43rd minute).
However, a lapse in defense in the 47th minute saw Japan team captain Ikumi Saeki equalize 2-2. All four goals came through penalty corner conversions.
It was Malaysia’s fifth point in the pool standings and Japan amassed seven points, same as Great Britain.
The Japanese, with six points in their kitty, together with debutants South Africa, were comfortably in line of making the final against Australia prior to the start of the match. All Japan need to do is win against the Malaysians and pick three more points. With nine points Japan would have finished second in the pool standings.
But with Hiroki Watranabe’s boys having stumbled, it is now all up to the South Africans to beat Australia in their last match to seal a play in the final.
However, should the South Africans fail, India will advance to Saturday’s final. India is second in the standings with eight points.
In earlier group matches Japan defeated defending champions Great Britain 2-1 and South Africa 1-0 respectively, but lost 5-1 to India and 3-2 against Australia.
It was a tense start to the match with the Malaysians and Japanese sharing ball possessions and dominating the game.
Malaysian Colts head coach Amin Rahim said: “From the first game I have instilled the winning mentality. I am very excited and satisfied to see the players showring a lot of improvement in every match. There was massive improvement in today’s match. We had all the opportunity to win but Japan came back and found the gaps in defense to level.”
He added that defender T. Perabu is nursing thigh injury and hopes to have a full team for the fifth-sixth classification match against either Japan or South Africa.
“Japan and South Africa are strong teams and it does not matter whom we play,” said Amin.
(Press Release: Sultan of Johor Cup Media Team)