* Players observe a minute’s silence and wore black armbands in show of respect for keeper S. Kumar
* Defensive lapses allow China to score twice
* In Group A matches India beat France 3-2 while Pakistan edge Poland 2-1
IT was not an easy win for Malaysia who defeated China 3-2 in their opening Group B match in the World League semi-final at the KHC Dragons grounds in Antwerp, Belgium on Sunday.
But the full points will certainly put Malaysia in good stead and better frame of mind when they face a tougher match against Ireland on Thursday. The other teams in the group are Belgium and Great Britain.
Tai Beng Hai’s team will have to tighten things at the back. It was defensive lapses that allowed hardworking China to score twice. China looked threatening in the closing stages of the match but Malaysia staved off the Chinese onslaught for the narrow win.
Malaysia go their opening goal after 18 minutes through Faizal Saari. National junior Haziq Shamsul made it 2-0 in the 30th minute with a deflected shot that foxed the Chinese backline and goalkeeper Xu Rui.
Skipper Razie Rahim made it 3-1 for Malaysia on 56 minutes to put Malaysia on cruise mode after China pulled one back through Guo Xiaoping in the 37th minute.
But Malaysia’s joy was cut short immediately when Zhang Zhixuan scored for the red-shirted Chinese. The fight was on and the Chinese came in waves but Malaysia stood the onslaught for a win.
Before the match both teams observed a minute’s silance and wore black armbands as a respect for Malaysia’s No 1 goalkeeper S. Kumar who withdrew for the tournament following the death of his three-year-old son who passed away in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
Malaysia, ranked No 12 in the world, are gunning to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. In order to do that Malaysia need to finish in the top three in Belgium.
Meanwhile, in Group A matches sub-continent rivals India and Pakistan won their opening matches against France and Poland respectively.
India, the Asian Games gold medallists and have already qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, beat France 3-2 while Pakistan edged Poland 2-1.
India 3 France 2
Pakistan 2 Poland 1
Malaysia 3 China 2