YANGON - Malaysia qualified for the SEA Games women's hockey final after registering a hard-earned 6-0 victory over Thailand at the Thein Phyu Hockey Stadium in Yangon.
Despite the comfortable scoreline, the Malaysians struggled to unlock the tight Thai defence and had to score three times in the final eight minutes for their fourth win in as many matches.
With one more game against Indonesia to come on Thursday, Malaysia are already assured of a top two finish in the six-team preliminary round and a place in Friday's final.
On Wednesday, Thailand played a smart game to frustrate their opponents - by defending in numbers and relying on quick breaks to surge forward.
Malaysia, who dominated possession, failed to convert from their first six penalty corners before Norbaini Hashim broke the deadlock from open play in the 26th minute.
The goal eased the Malaysians' nerves and they went on to double the lead three minutes later through captain Nadia Abdul Rahman's penalty stroke.
Thailand goalkeeper Tongsun Jesdaporn produced several crucial saves to keep the scoreline down but could not keep out Siti Nor Amrina Ruhaini's strike in the 44th minute. Malaysia 3-0.
A three-goal blitz in four minutes - from Norbaini (62nd, 65th) and Rabiatul Mohamed (63rd) - completed the victory.
"We knew the Thais would defend in numbers. We were patient in probing for holes in their defence and managed to take advantage of the few scoring chances we had.
"We were unsuccessful with the penalty corners because the Thai players threw themselves to the ground to block our attempts. This is dangerous and the umpires must curb it because it can cause serious injuries to the players," said national coach Mohd Nasihin Nubli.
Despite the loss, Thailand are still in the running for the final - provided they beat second-placed Singapore tomorrow.
Singapore did not play to their true potential but still thrashed Cambodia 16-0 on Wednesday.