Holders South Korea and title contenders Malaysia made blistering starts to the Asia Cup, romping to wins in their first matches at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium yesterday.
Four-time champions South Korea came from a goal down to inflict a massive 7-2 defeat to Oman under floodlights before Malaysia handed an empathic 7-1 defeat to China, thanks to a treble from Saari Faizal. Tajuddin Tenku struck twice while Saabah Shahril and Rosli Ramadan netted once each for Malaysia in the one-sided affair.
Though the final score between South Korea and Oman may give an impression of a one-sided affair, the fact was that Oman gave their superior opponents a run for their money in the first two quarters. They fought on equal footing with South Korea, who came here with the intention to lift a hattrick of titles as well as confirm their berth for next year's Hockey World Cup.
South Korea and Malaysia are considered the better sides in Pool B and are expected to qualify for the Super Fours but it was Oman who delivered a clear message to hosts Bangladesh that they would not be an easy opponent in the place-deciding matches if the teams square off.
Oman held Korea in the first quarter before stunning them in the 18th minute with a strike from Al Fazari Rashed. However, Korea hit back and levelled the margin in the 22nd minute and left for the lemon break at 1-1.
However, the well-built Omanis could not keep the momentum in the third and fourth quarters while also failing to cope with the speed of the Koreans, resulting in them conceding six more goals. But the Omanis had another, ultimately futile, highlight as Al Qasmi Asaad Mubarak a brilliantly struck goal over the head of the South Korean goalkeeper in the fourth quarter to reduce the margin.