Malaysia strike late to deny Ireland bronze medal

Men’s Champions Challenge I
Ireland 2 (P Gleghorne, C Cargo) Malaysia 4 (A Nasruddin, M Baharom, A Misron, F Ashari)

Ireland’s men finished a creditable fourth at the Champions Challenge I as their experimental side fell 4-2 to hosts Malaysia in the bronze medal match in Kuantan.

Having got off to a tough start against Malaysia, goals from Paul Gleghorne and Chris Cargo got Ireland back level and in the ascendancy early in the second half at 2-2.

But, while Ireland shaded the latter stages, Azlan Misron and Fitri Ashari struck counter-attack goals in the last four minutes to snatch the win.

Muhammad Baharom celebrates scoring Malaysia's second goal Pic: FIH

Muhammad Baharom celebrates scoring Malaysia’s second goal Pic: FIH

The hosts first attack led to a penalty stroke that was converted by Ahmad Nasruddin in the seventh minute, won from his side’s first attack.

The second was not long in arriving, coming from a counter attack with Muhammad Baharom finishing off, much to the delight of a raucous home crowd in the Stadium Wisma Belia.

The Green Machine created a few promising chances via Stephen Dowds’ penalty corner flick while Maurice Elliott’s pass could not quite locate Alan Sothern in the circle from another inviting opening.

However, the Irish team kept on pushing with Phillip Brown forcing their third penalty corner at the beginning of the second quarter. Paul Gleghorne managed to deflect the ball past Malaysian keeper Subramiam Kumar. Ireland remained the dominant side throughout the second quarter and continued on their quest for an equaliser.

The effort paid off in the 42nd minute when Chris Cargo slotted home from close range his second goal in as many days. But that was as good as it got for Ireland as Malaysia improved in the closing stages and they got their key goal with four minutes left.

David Harte had saved an initial drag-flick but the ensuing long corner was returned with interest and Azlan Misron finished off. The 4-2 was a classic counter-attack goal which came when Ireland were pushing for the equaliser. Firhan Ashari (70’) scored in the last seconds of the match securing his team the bronze medal.

Nonetheless, it was a generally productive outing as Ireland outdid their pre-tournament ranking by finishing fourth place, finishing behind two sides bound for this summer’s World Cup and tournament surprise package Canada.

Indeed, the result is more impressive for a side who had just two training sessions and two warm-up matches with new coach Craig Fulton prior to travelling.

His squad selection raised quite a few eyebrows pre-tournament, bringing in uncapped 31-year-old Maurice Elliott along with several other untested faces.

Playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 in sweltering conditions will certainly have done them no harm with this tournament providing the first building block for the 2016 Olympic qualification process.

Next on the agenda is a training trip to Spain with Fulton anticipating that a number of the unavailable players from this trip will return to put their names back in the ring for long-term selection.

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, C Cargo, M Elliott, A Sothern, E Magee, B McCandless, Philip Brown, Peter Brown, P Gleghorne
Subs: S Dowds, K Shimmins, M Bell, D Carlisle, M Robson, R Shaw

Malaysia: K Subramiam, K Lim, Fitri Saari, Faizal Saari, S Mutalib, A Misron, N Mohd Noor, F Jali, M Hassan, A Jalil, M Baharom
Subs: M Jalil, F Ashari, M Saabah, A Nasruddin, M Jamaluddin

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