Amin Rahim slammed two late goals as Malaysia came back from the brink to stun favourites India 4-3 on Tuesday and set up an Asian Gamesmen’s hockey final against Pakistan.
As India led 3-2 with just three minutes remaining, Rahim drew level with a penalty corner and then converted another in extra-time to hand Malaysia a thrilling win.
The other semi-final also produced edge-of-the-seat excitement as Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar saved the last shot of a penalty shoot-out to help his team knock out defending champions South Korea.
Both teams had ended regulation play at 1-1 and failed to break the deadlock in extra-time at the Aoti hockey stadium.
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.
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.
Rahim’s two late goals enabled Malaysia to avenge the 3-2 defeat at India’s hands at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last month.
“It was an incredible finish and still feels like a dream that I scored those two goals in the end,” said Rahim.
India’s Spanish coach Jose Brasa attributed the loss to defensive errors towards the end of the semi-final.
“This is a big disaster because we came here to win the tournament,” said Brasa, whose contract ends after the Asiad. “We dominated the game but Malaysia managed to convert three penalty corners.”