IPOH: Malaysia will meet New Zealand in the play-off for bronze in tomorrow’s last fixture for the host nation of the 30th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SASC) invitational hockey tournament.

The Speedy Tigers completed the preliminary round schedule of the six-team tournament with a narrow 1-0 victory over three-time champions South Korea last night.

The only goal of the action was scored by Mohamad Akhimullah Anuar Esook in the seventh minute to the thunderous cheer of some 5,000 fans at the Azlan Shah Hockey Stadium.

The victory saw the Speedy Tigers, who started with the status of defending champions on May 5, finish the league in third position with nine points, behind Japan (13 points) and Pakistan (11 points), ahead of New Zealand (7 points), South Korea (3 points ) and Canada, who finished bottom with no points.

Malaysia previously beat Canada 6-2 and New Zealand 6-4, besides losing 5-4 to Pakistan and 2-1 to Japan, while South Korea edged Canada 1-0 but lost 2-1 to Japan, 4-0 at the hands of Pakistan and 4-1 to New Zealand.

Three-time champions Pakistan and Japan will square off in the final tomorrow as the two best teams in the preliminary round while South Korea meet Canada in the fifth-sixth decider.

Commenting on the match against South Korea, national head coach Sarjit Singh was clearly not happy with his team’s performance as they wasted many scoring opportunities.

“I think of all the matches, this is one of the worst we played. The previous four matches were good. We were running with the ball too much (today) and not creating the space when we had chances, (we) still don’t know how to take our chances.

“We were very lucky to get away because South Korea fielded many new players, otherwise we would have been punished. I am not happy with the performance but happy with the result,” he said.

Sarjit hopes his men can perform tomorrow better against world number 10th New Zealand, who are expected to provide a stiffer challenge after losing twice in a row, including a 2-1 friendly loss on May 1 to the Speedy Tigers.

Meanwhile, New Zealand head coach Greg Nicol, whose next move on the chess board is to use rookies tomorrow, still hopes to end the tournament in the best position by inflicting one blow on Malaysia.

“I will give most of my youngsters a chance to play, we have nothing to lose. I would be happy if they put up a good performance,” he said.