Spain limped into the quarterfinals of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 after beating a fighting Malaysia 4-3 via sudden death shoot-out following a 2-2 draw in regulation time in their Crossover stage match at the Kalinga Stadium, here on Sunday.
Spain fought back from a goal down and scored twice within a minute to take a 2-1 lead. However, Malaysia scored the equaliser (2-2) in the 48th minute and then survived waves of Spanish attacks and a barrage of penalty corners to take the match to the tie-break shoot-out.
They took an early lead in the shoot-out but eventually succumbed to the pressure in sudden death when Firhan Ashari failed his attempt, blazing over the goal a rebound off a block by the Spanish goalkeeper Mario Garin.
Spain won the match 4-3 in sudden death but as their players and chief coach Max Caldas erupted in joy, they had all the reasons to feel lucky to escape with victory as they had failed to make the most of their chances and ball possession. They had to thank goalkeeper Garin, who was brought in as a substitute just for the shoot-out and did his job superbly by pulling off a couple of good saves.
In the first shoot-out of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 and Malaysia started it on a good note when Ashari beat Garin with an easy shot. Alvaro Iglesias’s shot was saved by the Malaysian goalkeeper Othman Hafizuddin and after Faizal Saari and Marc Miralles converted their respective attempts, Malaysian skipper Marhan Jalil fluffed his attempt and Jordi Bonastre converted to make it 2-2.
Irfan Suhaimi Shahmie scored for Malaysia and then Xavier Gispert scored for Spain as the teams ended 3-3 in the shoot-out after Shello Silverius (MAS) hit the post and Marc Reyne’s slap shot from the top of the circle was saved by Hafizuddin. In the sudden death, Marc Miralles scored while Ashari failed as Spain sealed the victory and set up a quarterfinal clash with World No. 1 Australia.
After a goalless first half in which Enrique Gonzalez rattled the crossbar and Marc Miralles failed to convert two penalty corners, Faizal Saari set the match on fire when he scored a fine field goal in the 34th minute. He controlled superbly a long pass from the half-line by Jalil, moved into the shooting circle and hammered home a brilliant back-hander to make it 1-0 for Malaysia.
Spain fought back strongly and scored twice within a minute — Marc Miralles converted a penalty stroke, awarded for a foul off a penalty corner, in the 40th minute and even before the Malaysians could recover, Xavier Gispert made it 2-1 for Spain when he capitalised on a quick attack.
But Malaysia were not done yet, they were unlucky when a goal was disallowed on referral after Saari had slipped inside the 23rd-yard line and the ball struck his back-stick just before he sent in a superb pass for a goal.
But they were rewarded in the 48th minute when off a fine attack, Shello Silverius scored a field goal to make it 2-2. The Malaysian Tigers survived tremendous pressure created by New Zealand, with both teams reduced to 10 players for a short duration towards the end of the fourth quarter, and three penalty corner attempts by Miralles to keep the score 2-2.
But their efforts proved futile in the end as they failed to make the most of their chances in the shoot-out and Spain escaped to victory.
Spain dominated possession, made more circle penetrations, had a higher number of shots at the goal than Malaysia and also failed to convert eight penalty corners. However, lady luck was on their side as they won the match in sudden death and sealed a berth in the quarterfinals.