Ordos (China): A last-minute goal by Firhan Ashari helped Malaysia beat Japan and clinch the bronze medal in the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament that concluded on Sunday.
Just when it seemed that the match would go into extra-time, Malaysia moved in from the right flank and the cross found Ashari on top of the circle. He tapped the ball to his left and, with a powerful reverse shot, beat the Japanese goalkeeper.
The jubilant Malaysians celebrated their bronze medal while the Japanese crumbled on the turf, completely shocked.
This was Japan`s second consecutive defeat to Malaysia in the tournament. On Friday, Japan led 2-0 and looked set for a place in the final, but Malaysia scored thrice in the second half to destroy the Japanese dream.
Earlier, Japan had the upper hand in the first half as Malaysia were a little slow of the blocks. They missed openings and also fumbled with passes in the midfield. The Japanese had their chances but couldn`t convert the two penalty corners they earned in the first half.
In the second, Malaysia threw in more players upfront and played aggressively. They came close thrice but the alert Japanese defence thwarted the sublime moves.
After Malaysia wasted their first penalty corner of the match in the 52nd minute, Japan had their third in the 60th minute as a trapping error ensured Malaysia build a counter.
After missing out on their second penalty corner in the 63rd minute, Malaysia went for broke and used both the flanks to stretch the Japanese defence.
South Korea avoided the wooden spoon beating hosts China 2-1 in the play-offs for the 5th-6th spot.
China, hoping to avoid a miserable run in the tournament, couldn`t beat a determined Korean side desperately trying to avoid the last spot.
Korea scored their opening goal in the tenth minute when Jong Hyun Jang converted a penalty corner. The lead was enhanced in the 28th minute when Ju Hun Kim slammed in a field effort after the ball had rebounded off a Chinese defender`s stick.
At the break, Korea led 2-0.
China managed to score a consolation goal in the 62nd minute after Korea had downed the shutters defending resolutely. Yixian Liu powered in a penalty corner but Korea managed to hold onto their one-goal lead and clinch the match.