Riding on two early penalty corner conversions, Malaysia posted a sound 3-0 victory over Japan in the opening encounter of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here today.
Faisal Saari sent a drag flick into the net to open the scoring in the third minute and Tengku Tajuddin capitalised on a rebound from the goalkeeper on Malaysia’s second penalty corner in the ninth minute to put Malaysia on course to avenging their loss in the final of the recent Asian Games in Jakarta.
Japan fought back to do create some chances in the second quarter, but failed to convert them. Faisal Saari spiked any chance of Japan’s fight-back with a deft penalty stroke in the 51st minute.
The penalty stroke was awarded on a Malaysian referral that showed Saari being pushed from behind inside the circle.
Malaysian captain Sukri Mutalib said his team had achieved the target of starting with a victory.
“We were motivated to start with a good performance. The Asian Games is now behind us. On our way to the World Cup, we want to do well here,” he said.
Roelant Oltmans, who recently took over as the Malaysian team’s coach, was pleased with his side’s performance.
“This is a new tournament and a new start. I am happy with the way we played, but we can do better,” said Oltmans.
“We cannot change the past, so we hardly discussed what happened in the Asian Games,” Oltmans added.
Japan’s captain Genki Mitani said his players did feel the pressure of being the Asian Games champions going into the match.
“We sure felt some pressure from being the Asian Games gold medallists, but we can handle that pressure,” Mitani said. “What hurt us was the two early goals we conceded through.”
Siegfried Aikman, Japan’s coach, said he was disappointed with the loss in the first outing, which he attributed to “individual mistakes.”
“A few individual errors killed us. We did come back strongly, but failed to convert the chances,” he said.
“We have a very young team which can do better. We will come back.”