JOHOR BAHARU: Defending champion Malaysia finished sixth in the Under-21 International Hockey Championship (Johor Sultan Cup) after losing 1-2 to New Zealand in a rain interrupted match at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium, here yesterday.
The 2013 Project squad lost out to a Kane Russel penalty corner strike during extra time after the match had ended 1-1 during regulation time.
Coach Muhammad Dhaarma Raj said it was evident that the players were mentally tired, especially after watching them miss easy passes or when defending feeble shots at goal.
“They were missing easy shots, short passes and could not defend the penalty corner well. Mental fatigue is not an excuse but need to be given serious attention,” he said after the match.
He added that since he had only four days to work with the team, time factor was another reason why the team could not perform more aggressively.
Malaysia who were dominating 60 percent of the exchanges had five penalty corners in the first half but penalty corner specialist Muhammad Noor Faeez Ibrahim failed to make them count although New Zealand goalkeeper Sam Greaney was a stumbling block.
Play was suspended for 25 minutes due to rain when the match entered the 28th minute of the first half but though Malaysia came back strong in the second half to take the lead through Shazril Irwan Nazli (48th minute), New Zealand managed to equalise in the 58th minute through Jared Panchia.
The Malaysian side, looking jaded during extra time, conceded a penalty corner in the 72nd minute which was clinically converted by Russel to give the Kiwis fifth place. — Bernama