Pakistan knocks out South Korea to meet Malaysia in final
GUANGZHOU, China (AP) – Amin Rahim scored a late equalizer and the golden goal clincher as Malaysia produced a stunning 4-3 upset win over India on Tuesday in Asian Games men’s field hockey semifinals.
The semifinal win sent Malaysia into a final against Pakistan, which edged defending champion South Korea 4-3 in a sudden-death penalty shootout. Also at stake for the winner of Thursday’s final is an automatic qualifying spot for the London 2012 Olympics.
“It’s very sad … this is a big disaster,” said India’s Spanish coach Jose Brasa, whose contract expires after the tournament.
Pakistan’s Rehan Butt (right) and South Korea’s Seo Jong-ho compete for the ball during their men’s hockey semifinal match at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Rahim scored the golden goal via a 75th-minute penalty corner after helping Malaysia force extra time with a goal from a short corner with three minutes remaining in regulation.
Substitutes and team officials ran onto the field to celebrate with the players as soon as Rahim netted the winner, propelling Malaysia into the final for the first time in 11 Asian Games.
“They had good penalty corner variations and hit two short corners from different angles,” India captain Rajpal Singh said.
Malaysia coach Stephen Huizen said his players counterattacked and earned penalty corners at crucial times which were duly converted. He had no new gameplan to take on seven-time gold winner Pakistan, except more courageous play.
“On paper … we were underdogs today,” Huizen said. “And I think against Pakistan we will also be underdogs too.”
In the first of the semis, goalkeeper Salman Akbar made two crucial saves in a shootout for Pakistan.
The six-foot Akbar denied Jang Jong-hyun and Yeo Woon-kon from the spot after experienced Sohail Abbas had missed one for Pakistan. Haseem Khan converted from the spot to book Pakistan’s first berth in an Asian Games final in 20 years.
The score was locked 1-1 at the end of regulation, and neither team produced a winner in extra time. It was at 3-3 after first round of penalty strokes. “It was the most nerve-racking international match I have ever played,” Akbar, veteran of 300 internationals, told The Associated Press.
“I visualized pictures of my mother and father before preparing myself in today’s shootout. “It was just because of their prayers that I managed to stop the last two.” In regulation time both teams tried to take their chances through counterattacks instead of challenging the rival defenders.
“A semifinal is a big occasion and naturally nobody wanted to take chances,” Pakistan striker Rehan Butt, who did not feature in the shootout, said. “I was in tears during the shootout and was just praying to the god for victory.”
“Now we have just gold in our minds.” Striker Mohammad Waqas had given Pakistan a 1-0 halftime lead when he fired in an angular drive in the 22nd minute from the top of the circle.
Kang Moon-kyu equalized in the 39th minute with a deft touch in a rare South Korean attempt at goal.
Just before South Korea’s equalizer came in, Abbas failed to convert off three successive short corners. Mohammad Shafqat’s attempt in the 53rd also went wide.
South Korea also had its opportunities in the extra time, but Jang missed the 75th minute short corner.
“The result is against our expectations,” Kang said. “We didn’t do enough training for the penalty strokes so we made many mistakes.”
South Korea’s goalkeeper Lee Myun-gho said his teammates were exhausted before it went to strokes.
“Besides that most of our players are very young and lacked experience in shooting penalty strokes,” he said.
VIDEO: Malaysia 4-3 India (Hockey Semifinal)
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