by Anne Das
National coach A. Arul Selvaraj expressed his disappointment with the team’s overall performance and singled out goalkeeper Muhammad Hafizzudin Othman, for their dismal performance going down 0-3 to Korea in their opening match tonight in the 29th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 International Men’s hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh.
“I have never in my coaching career singled out players in defeat, but I have to this time. Besides, the team’s overall poor performance where we did badly in defending the penalty corners, Hafizzudin has to take the blame too,” said Arul after the match.
“Goalkeepers play a key role in the performance of teams and Hafizzudin has let us down.
“He owes an explanation to the team and so have all the players for their below par performance.
“When we are not committed enough and lose 50-50 situations, we will be in trouble and that is what happened tonight.
“I am really surprised because in training, running up to the match, all were doing well, including Hafizuddin, who was outstanding.”
Korea took the lead in the 10th minute in the second penalty corner off Jang Jonghyun seconds before the end of second quarter. Malaysia conceded their second goal – Korea’s third penalty corner for the evening – when Kim Hyeonhong finished clinically to beat goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman.
Malaysia on the other hand had their first ‘penalty corner’ revoked after VAR request by Korea in the 13th minute and came close to equalising in their second penalty corner soon after that, but Korean goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon made a brilliant diving safe
Malaysia also had their third ‘penalty corner’ disallowed after another VAR request from Korea in the 38th minute and another ‘penalty corner’ revoked through VAR.
“I would rather not comment on the VAR decisions, but that is no excuse. We have to blame ourselves for the defeat,” said Arul when asked about the VAR decisions.
Korea, on the other hand, seconds after the VAR decision in the 58th minute, on the opposite end, went up 3-0 when Jang Jonghyun scored for the second time through their 4th penalty corner. It also earned him the Man of the Match award.
“We conceded three penalty goals and that is reason for concern,” said a disappointed Arul.
Korean team manager Kim Byung Hoon, on the other hand, was elated with the victory.
“We executed our penalty corners well and made some good calls for VAR decisions,” said Kim.
He also commented on 39-year-old Korean captain and striker Namyong Lee with 285 caps, who played in defence.
“Coach Shin Seok Kyo made the positional change for Namyong in this squad and his discipline in the game and experience made a vast difference in manning the defence.
“It may look like an easy win for us tonight, but we had to work hard and be clinical.”
Malaysia last met Korea at the Asia Cup hockey in Jakarta in May where they met thrice. In the first match they drew 2-2, in the Super round match they won 5-4 and in the final, Malaysia saw their hopes to win the gold medal dashed when they went down 1-2.
It was Malaysia’s second silver medal in the Asia Cup and for South Korea, it was their fifth gold since 1982.
Arul was still optimistic that his team will bounce back against Pakistan tomorrow (today). Pakistan went down 1-4 to South Africa.
“Our GPS track record on the players and performances in matches, has also shown that we are stronger in the second match. I am counting on this for the players to rise again.
“But first,although time is not on our side for the next match, we need to quickly analyse the match against Korea tonight and rectify many things quickly for us to bounce back.
“Our path may look tougher now, but there is no easy path to success and we just have to work harder to rise again.”