Malaysia scored an early goal and then lived dangerously for long periods before edging Pakistan 1-0 in their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match at the Azlan Shah Stadium.
Skipper Mohd Razie Rahim scored the only goal with a direct flick off their first penalty corner attempt in the third minute.
Mathematically, the Malaysians can still make the final. But, judging by their performance, that’ll be a tall order, indeed.
They have to beat India in their last match on Friday – and by a big margin as well.
For now, a top-four finish is the best they can look at.
The perennial problem of sloppy defending continues to plague Malaysian hockey and never seems to go away.
The last quarter was littered with mistakes and it’s hard to fathom how Pakistan failed to get a goal or two.
Malaysian goalkeeper Hairi Abdul Rahman must take the credit for keeping Pakistan at bay.
The last time Malaysia defeated Pakistan was in the World Hockey League Semi-Final (3-1) in 2013 in Johor Baru.
Only some timely interventions by Hairi and poor finishing by the Pakistanis kept the Malaysia ahead.
The last five minutes was an agonising period for the Malaysians as the Pakistanis launched wave after wave of attacks.
“We played well in patches,” said national coach Stephen van Huizen. “We scored from one penalty corner and maintained the lead.”
He also played down Malaysia’s chances of making the final as “we have to beat India by a huge margin”.
“Let’s just go out and play a good game against India,” he said.