The Malaysian young tigers gave an inspiring performance despite going down 3-2 against New Zealand in their opening match of the 11th Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Bahru on Friday.

Though the match ended 3-2 victory in favour of the Kiwis, coach Amin Rahim’s boys deserved all the applause for their stupendous performance infront of an estimated 2,000 fans who had flocked to the 5,000-capacity stadium long before the match started.

“I see a lot of positives in this match against New Zealand compared to last year. Although we lost, there was a lot of attacking on our side. There were some shortcomings and we will address this before our match against India on Saturday,” said Amin.

“Overall, we had a lot of chances but just could not put the ball in the net. The opposition defence was tight but we still managed to penetrate in the circle many times,” he added. “These are positives.”

Making their seventh appearance in the SOJC, the Kiwis got their noses up with a sixth minute penalty corner conversion by Luke Aldred. But Malaysian team captain Faris Harizan, however, snuffed out the Kiwi celebration in the next minute by converting a penalty stroke to level score  1-1.

The tempo of the match turned into a ferocious pace following this equalizer as the Kiwis continued domination and earned two more penalty corners that resulted in Scott Cosslett converting one in the 15th minute to extend the lead 2-1.

The opportunistic Malaysians, who had wasted several chances in the Kiwis circle in the early part of second quarter, went firing on all cylinders and earned a penalty corner in the 24th minute, their fourth in the match. Fariz once again swept the ball past goalkeeper Hayden Ganley to equalize 2-2.

The fans liked what they saw of the young tigers – highly determined and committed side. But it was tough holding back the Kiwis for long and the Malaysian defence crumbled in the 33rd minute. James Hickson sneaked the ball past goalkeeper Rafaizul Mohamad in a goalmouth melee to give his side a 3-2 advantage till the final whistle.

New Zealand coach Aaron Ford was pleased with his players performance despite coming under artillery from the Malaysian forwards in the last quarter.