Amin Rahim scored a 75th minute golden goal as Malaysia stunned favourites India 4-3 on Tuesday to set up an Asian Games men's hockey final against Pakistan. Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar saved the last shot of a penalty shoot-out to help his team knock out defending champions South Korea after both teams failed to break a 1-1 deadlock in extra-time.
The final on Thursday will be Pakistan's first since they won the last of their seven Asiad titles way back in Beijing in 1990. For Malaysia it will be their maiden appearance in the title clash after breaking a jinx against India to whom they had lost all 10 previous Asian Games encounters. Both semi-finals produced thrilling hockey before a modest 1,000-strong crowd at the Aoti complex. Waqas Muhammad put Pakistan ahead in the 22nd minute, before Kang Moon-Kyu drew level for South Korea four minutes into the second session.
When the first five penalty shots produced a 3-3 deadlock, the sudden death rule was applied, which produced even more drama. Sohail Abbas and Jang Jong-hyun saw their shots saved, but Haseem Khan scored off the next to put Pakistan 4-3 ahead.
Jang Jong-ho stepped in for the next shot amid mounting tension and his feeble push was easily saved by Akbar to carry Pakistan into the final. "I have never played such a nerve-wrecking game in my life," said Akbar, 28, a veteran of 300 internationals. "When the penalties began, my only thought was of my parents back home and I think it is their prayers which helped me and Pakistan win.
"This win will certainly boost our morale for the final." Zeeshan Ashraf's men are desperate to make amends in Guangzhou after finishing an embarrassing last at the World Cup and lowly sixth at the Commonwealth Games this year. The Koreans, whose hopes of bagging a hat-trick of titles ended, will return on Thursday to fight for the bronze medal against India. "We did not expect this result," said goal-scorer Kang. "I don't think we trained enough in taking penalty strokes and everyone was exhausted by the time the shoot-out came."
The second semi-final swung wildly as Malaysia took the lead through Tengku Jalil before Sandeep Singh equalised for India with a penalty corner a few seconds before the interval. A goal by India's Tushar Khandekar soon after resumption was neutralised by Azlan Misron 12 minutes later, but captain Rajpal Singh put India 3-2 ahead in the 54th minute.
With just three minutes left, Rahim made it 3-3 with a penalty corner and then struck another in extra-time to hand Malaysia a thrilling win. The Malaysians, who failed to win a medal in Doha four years ago, avenged the 3-2 defeat at India's hands at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last month.