Jakarta: Japan hockey’s fairy tale journey continued as their men’s team rallied brilliantly after trailing 1-4 to first draw parity before knocking out Malaysia 3-1 in the penalty shootout to win the gold medal at the 18th Asian Games here on Saturday.
It was a double delight for the 2020 Olympic hosts as they won both men’s and women’s titles in the process and ruined Malaysian and Indian dreams.
A last ten-minute high voltage drama turned the table and Japan from being vanished became the vanquisher.
In one of the most thrilling final played in the recent times, Japan surprised everybody with their resilience and fighting qualities.
At one stage, Malaysia looked a runaway winner having taken, what looked like an unbeatable 4-1 lead, but obviously the loser had underestimated the fighting qualities of their rivals.
Malaysia were off to a blistering start as they took the lead in the 4th minute through Mohammed Saari, who converted a penalty corner.
Japan equalised four minutes later through Seren Tanaka (1-1), but after that Malaysians went on a goal-spree dismantling the Japanese defence by pumping in three goals in a space of six minutes (4-1), before the ultimate winners drew one back to make it 4-2 at half-time.
Malaysians held on to the lead for another 20 minutes in the second half before raising the goal tally to 5-2 in the 50th minute. Then came the Japanese stunning fight back as they pumped in three goals in a space of six minutes to make it 5-5.
Malaysia struck again in the 59th minute (6-5), but a few seconds before the final whistle Japan equalised (6-6) to leave the Malaysian players and supporters bewildered.
For Malaysia the goal scorers were Tajuddin Ahmed (3), Maoh Razie, Faizal Saari and Mohd Arshad (1 each). Kenta Tanaka (2), Seren Tanaka, Kiato Tanaka, Y Koji and Hiro Masa Ochiai (1 each) were the scorers for Japan.
In the penalty shootout, Japan overpowered Malaysia 3-1 to win their first-ever Men’s Hockey Gold in the Asian Games and deprived Malaysia the chance to directly qualify for 2020 Olympics.
The Malaysian hockey team ended up as the bridesmaid again in the Asian Games and missed the chance to book an automatic berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The team was beaten 3-1 in the penalty shoot out at the Indonesia Asiad at the Gelora Bung Karno Hockey Stadium after the match ended with a 6-6 draw.
The defeat was all the more painful because with eight minutes left the national team enjoyed a comfortable 5-2 lead.