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Saturday, December 1, 2012


Malaysia, Korea, Ireland and hosts Argentina have all won through to the Semi Finals of the Argentina Hockey Men’s Champions Challenge 1 following a scintillating day of action in Quilmes.
Malaysia continued their superb goal-scoring form with a 4-1 victory against a vastly improved South Africa team, with Faizal Saari scoring twice in a win that sets up a Semi Final meeting against Asian rivals Korea, who defeated Japan 3-2. It was a hard earned win for Korea, who fought back from 2-1 down to win the match thanks to superb open play strikes from Kang Moon Kewon and You Hyo Sik.
Host nation Argentina scored four unanswered first half goals on their way to an 5-1 victory over Pan American rivals Canada to book their place in the Semi Finals. Goals from Lucas Vila (2), Facundo Callioni, Juan Cruz Agulleiro and Guillermo Schickendantz sealed the victory for Argentina, setting up a Semi Final against Ireland. A brace of penalty corners from Conor Harte helped Ireland power to a comprehensive 4-0 triumph over Poland. All four goals came in the second half, with Michael Watt and Shane O’Donoghue also registering to give the Irish a victory that they fully deserved. 
Following the completion of Thursday’s matches, the line-ups for Saturday’s Semi Finals and Classification matches are now confirmed.  At 0830 local time (CET / GMT -3), the first of the placement games will begin when South Africa will face Japan. That match is followed by the second placement match between take on Poland and Canada at 1100 before Malaysia and Korea take to the field at 1400 for the first of the Semi Finals. The final match of the day sees Ireland aiming to upset the odds against home favourites Argentina, which begins at 1700.
As well as booking their respective places in Semi Finals, the winning teams from Thursday’s matches have all now earned qualification for the next edition of the Champions Challenge 1 at the minimum. However, Malaysia, Korea, Ireland and Argentina will all have their sights set firmly on winning the tournament and securing a berth at next year’s Champions Trophy.   
Malaysia outgun South Africa to reach Semi Finals
Pool A winners Malaysia have sealed a place in the Semi Finals of the Argentina Hockey Men’s Champions Challenge 1 thanks to a 4-1 over South Africa. Faizal Saari scored twice in the win, with Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin and Tengku Tajudin Abdul Jalil also scoring. The result means that Malaysia will play the winner of the Quarter Final contest between Japan and Korea in the Semi Finals. South Africa, who scored a consolation goal through team captain Austin Smith, will now play in the 5-8 classification matches.
The unfancied South Africans – who finished fourth in Pool B – actually started the brighter of the two teams, but a brilliant counter-attack saw Malaysia establish a lead after just three minutes when Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin volleyed home from close range. It seemed that Malaysia would extend their advantage midway through the period when they won a trio of penalty corners in quick succession, but they could not find a way past South Africa keeper Jacques Le Roux.  South Africa were arguably the better team in the latter stages of the half, with Gregg Clark’s men playing with passion as well as a firm belief that they could get themselves back into the game. Miguel da Graca had a glorious chance to equalise when he received the ball in the circle with just the keeper to beat, but he failed to get any power behind his flicked effort before Malaysia cleared their lines.
Malaysia doubled their lead three minutes into the second half when Faizal Saari sent a low penalty corner drag-flick arrowing into the bottom right corner of the goal, before Tengku Tajudin Abdul Jalil went close to making it 3-0 with two chances in quick succession. The South Africans battled hard to find a way back into the match and came close to reducing the deficit when Matt Guise-Brown’s penalty corner flick flew fractionally over the cross-bar shortly before Lonwabo Mvimbi’s low strike brought a fine save from Malaysian shot-stopper Kumar Subramian.
The killer blow arrived with 14 minutes of the match remaining when Tengku Tajudin Abdul Jalil scored a stunning penalty corner deflection to make the score 3-0. Moments later, Faizal Saari claimed his second of the game with a solo effort to end any hopes of a South African fightback. South Africa pressed hard in the final stages of the game and pulled a goal back through an Austin Smith penalty corner, but it proved to be no more than a consolation as Malaysia closed out the game to seal their place in the tournament Semi Finals. 



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