Korea dashed Malaysia’s hopes of a first Asia Cup trophy as they reigned supreme with a thrilling 2-1 final victory here at the GBK Sports Arena in Jakarta on Wednesday. This is the fifth time the Korean men’s team have lifted the prestigious trophy. They have won the title in 1994, 1999, 2009 and 2013.
Earlier in the day, India – who had sent an inexperienced side for the tournament to test their depth – beat Japan 1-0 to win bronze while Pakistan finish fifth in the tournament after 8-0 win against Bangladesh.
Having won the Asian Champions Trophy in December last year, Korea looked like a confident bunch going into the final, a place they earned by pipping India in a 3-3 draw on Tuesday. The team, with experienced players, recovered well in time to put up a good fight against the Malaysian unit who looked poised to win the title race, not having lost a single match in the tournament.
After a goalless first quarter, Korea put Malaysia under the pump with a splendid field goal in the 17th minute. The 1-0 lead certainly put pressure on Malaysia who struggled to find their zing in converting chances. They managed an equalizer in the 25th minute through Syed Cholan that brought some respite in the Malaysian dug out but Korea, who had draw against India 4-4 in a high scoring match, worked their strategy to continue to put pressure on the Malaysian defence.
Though the third quarter went goalless, the Korea team’s turning point of the match came in the 52nd minute when they scored a quickfire field goal off a fantastic counter attack set up after Malaysia failed to convert back-to-back PCs.
Malaysia created plenty of opportunities to score in the dying minutes of the match, one such opportunity came when Faizal Saari took a shot on goal but Korean goalkeeper was on target to make a fine save.
The Korean defence, one of the best in Asian hockey, lived up to the billing and defended the scoreline. Though they found an opportunity to extend the lead to 3-1 when they were awarded the penalty stroke, the chance went missing with Malaysian goalie stopping the attempt by Jang Jonghyun.
Player of the Match was awarded to Jang Jonghyun, who completed his 300 international matches for Korea.
Both India and Pakistan have won the tournament three times each, while South Korea extend their record as most successful team having clinched the title five times out of 11 editions.
In a tight bronze medal contest that saw a solid defensive performance from the Indian men’s hockey team, Raj Kumar Pal (7’) scored the sole goal for India to help them seal a close win. Captain Birendra Lakra led a strong defensive display and was named player of the match.
“It was quite tough. We didn’t qualify for final, so it is tough to motivate an individual but we from whatever little time we had, the coaches gave us the right motivation to win this bronze medal,” Lakra said after the win. “After losing against Japan 2-5 [in the pool stage], the boys worked really hard to improve and to correct their mistakes with video sessions. Day by day they improved, happy with the young team, learned so quickly and performed so well.”
Top scorer of the tournament: Razie Rahim of Malaysia who scored 13 goals
Promising Goal Keeper of the Tournament: Akmal Hussain of Pakistan
Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Takashi Yoshikawa of Japan
Rising Star of the Tournament: India’s Uttam Singh
Best Player of the Tournament: Jang Jonghyun of Korea