KUALA LUMPUR,. The national hockey squad still need to improvise a lot, especially in their finishing, if they hope for a better placing at the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
This was the honest assessment of national head coach Roelant Oltmans after watching his men go down 1-2 to New Zealand in their first Test match at the National Hockey Stadium here today.
The Malaysian Tigers had a slight advantage in terms of possession, but failed to make it count, missing a number of chances and five penalty corners.
The Black Sticks stunned the home side with a second minute lead through a fantastic Stephen Jenness field goal, before Aidan Sarikaya doubled their lead in the 17th minute.
Malaysia, the 2018 Asian Games silver medallists, managed to reduce the deficit through Faizal Saari’s penalty stroke five minutes later.
World number 12 Malaysia tried hard to equalise in the next two quarters, but were unable to break into the world number nine’s goal box despite opting for ‘powerplay’ (taking out the goalkeeper and bringing on a outfield player for a more offensive strategy) in the final minutes of the game.
Talking to reporters after the match, Oltmans admitted that his charges would need to improvise a lot more, although they did show many positive qualities.
“We were better in fourth quarter, had many penalty corners and chances than New Zealand, but the bad start in the first two quarters cost us the game.
“We need to finish better (score), it involves the overall structure from defenders to forwards. We are looking forward to improve in next two next Test matches against the Kiwis before heading to Bhubaneswar,” he said.
The national side will face the 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallists again on Tuesday and Thursday at the same venue, before leaving to India on Nov 25.
Malaysia are set to face an uphill task at the World Cup, scheduled from Nov 28 to Dec 16, after being drawn in Pool D with former champions Pakistan, the Netherlands and Germany.
At the last World Cup in The Hague, the Netherlands in 2014, Malaysia finished last in the 12-team tournament.
Meanwhile, New Zealand coach Darren Smith said the 10-day training-cum-Test matches here would be crucial to the team as they prepare to face Argentina, Spain and France in Pool A in Bhubaneswar.
“It was good match and I enjoyed watching it …we could have scored more if we had stayed focused in the third quarter.
“Both teams trained flicks together with each other’s goalkeepers last night, so that helped us to stay sharp in goalkeeping,” he said. — Bernama