IPOH (Malaysia), May 30: Malaysia pulled off a memorable come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Pakistan to keep their semi-final hopes alive in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Wednesday.
Malaysia, who had last beaten Pakistan in 2007, trailed the former world hockey powerhouse 0-2, before staging a spirited second-half fightback to ensure all three points, with the winning goal coming in the final minute.
Pakistan, fielding an experienced side, took the lead in the 4th minute through Muhammad Umar Bhutta while Imran Butt made it 2-0 in the 12th minute to take a comfortable first-half lead.
Malaysia, however, came back from the break with renewed confidence and scored in the very first minute of the second-half through an opportunistic strike by Amir Farid Ahmad Fuzi before Faisal Saari equalised in the 48th minute to make it 2-2.
Malaysia continued pressing Pakistan’s defence and forced a series of penalty corners and just as the match was heading to a draw, Malaysia earned Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim’s well played drive from the penalty corner beat the Pakistan goalkeeper in the 69th minute to send the home fans into a frenzy.
Earlier, former champions and world heavyweights India are virtually out of contention for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after they were defeated 3-2 by Argentina; their third defeat in the tournament.
And their stand-in manager Mohamad Riaz said they were wasteful in front of goal.
They face rivals Pakistan on Thursday in Ipoh, and while pride is at stake, their hopes of lifting the trophy look over.
“Playing Pakistan has never been easy... Making the final looks like an outside chance, but defeating Pakistan is always important for Indian hockey,” Riaz said.
In the first-half, both teams played listlessly in the blazing afternoon heat until Argentina took the lead in the 37th minute through Matias Paredes, and then Santiago Montelli.
A shell-shocked India redoubled their efforts and were rewarded when Sardar Singh scored with a delightful reverse hit on 49 minutes.
But then Argentina punished the sloppy Indian defence again when Gonzalo Peillat converted a penalty corner. India reduced the deficit via a penalty corner but it was too late.
Britain kept their hopes of making Sunday’s final alive as they inflicted a 2-1 defeat on table-toppers New Zealand.
New Zealand were missing two of their key players, midfielders Simon Child and Ryan Archibald, as they went down to a determined Britain.
“In hindsight, we picked up some pointers that will help us in our quest for Olympic glory this July,” New Zealand coach Shane McLeod said, putting a brave face on defeat.
Britain opened the scoring through Ashley Jackson and doubled their advantage through Matt Daly.New Zealand had two penalty corners in the first half but failed twice as Andy Hayward was off form. Hayward finally found the target in the 62nd minute.
Despite the loss, New Zealand continue to lead the standings with nine points. Argentina also have nine points, but from five games. Great Britain are on seven points from four outings, followed by India (six points from five matches) and Malaysia (five points from four games).
South Korea have four points from as many games, followed by Pakistan on three points from four matches.
Results: Argentina 3 India 2 Britain 2 New Zealand 1 Malaysia 3 Pakistan 2—Agencies