Former international Soon Mustafa Karim celebrated a hat-trick as the Malaysian Men’s 060s team endured a tough match and fought gallantly to win 5-3 against Southern Cross SoM (Spirit of Masters) in the World Masters Hockey Asian Championships in Hong Kong on Thursday.
The Malaysians got off the block on a slow pace and by the fifth minute were a goal down after the Australians earned a penalty corner, and Alistair Hogg converted.
The match saw the Malaysians going into high intensity after this early setback and former international Soon Mustafa, a member of the 1984 Los Angeles and 1992 Barcelona Olympics, restored parity in the eighth minute via a field goal.
But Southern Cross dominance continued and shortly after Dale Rozario extended the lead to 2-1 in the 11th minute with a field goal, leaving the Malaysians desperately in search of the equalizer. Inderjit Tara then helped his side bounce back by scoring in the 38th minute to level 2-2.
The Malaysians were awarded a penalty stroke in the dying moments of the third quarter and Soon Mustafa pushed his side on the front foot in the 52nd minute for a 3-2 lead for the first time in the game, smashing the ball past goalkeeper James Boreham.
The battle, however, shifted into top gear as Philip Shaw took control and scored the all-important goal in the 58th minute to restore parity to 3-3.
However, goals by Sarjit in the 63rd minute via a penalty corner – his ninth goal in the tournament, and Soon Mustafa’s hat-trick two minutes later saw the World Masters Hockey 2022 Tokyo bronze medalist side register a come-from-behind 5-3 victory.
Malaysia tops the table standings on nine points – three ahead of Southern Cross followed by Hong Kong (3) and Japan (0). It was the most exciting warm-up match for the Malaysians ahead of Sunday’s final against Japan or Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the 40s team will play Hong Kong SoM on Friday, and Hong Kong the following day to wrap up their round-robin fixtures. Although matches against Spirit of Masters teams do not earn points, a win over Hong Kong SoM will boost the Malaysians’ confidence level for the final.
The Malaysian 050s team will also go into a showdown with basement side South Korea on Friday and conclude the group stage matches against Japan on Saturday. Victories in both matches may just turn the fortunes around for manager Thevandra Naidu’s side, barring any upsets.