THE new-look national hockey team threw away several golden opportunities, including a penalty stroke, to go down 3-2 to New Zealand and finish fourth in the 30th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup invitational tournament at the Azlan Shah Hockey Stadium here today.

Apart from the penalty stroke, the Speedy Tigers, who came into the tournament as defending champions, also failed to capitalise on the four penalty corners earned in the classification match.

Playing in front of a capacity crowd, it was Malaysia, who had beaten the Black Stick 2-1 in a friendly on May 1 and 6-4 in the round-robin stage on Tuesday (May 7), who drew first blood after just three minutes when Muhammad Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal scored from a pass by Faizal Saari.

World number 10 New Zealand replied swiftly, scoring two goals in five minutes through a Scott Cosslett penalty corner goal in the fifth minute and a Jonty Elmes field goal in the 10th minute.

World number 13 Malaysia had a great chance to level the scores when they were awarded a penalty stroke in the 39th minute after the ball hit a Kiwi player but Muhammad Azrai Aizad’s attempt sailed wide off the mark.

The Speedy Tigers, under the guidance of head coach Sarjit Singh, paid the price for their profligacy when Dane Lett stretched New Zealand’s lead to 3-1 with a penalty corner goal in the 48th minute.

Fitri Saari reduced the deficit 44 seconds before the final whistle but it was just too little, too late for Malaysia.

The Raja Permaisuri of Perak Tuanku Zara Salim watched the match.

Malaysia failed to make the final after completing the round-robin campaign in third place with nine points from five matches while New Zealand ended up fourth with seven points.

Sarjit, who was appointed as the new head coach in March and is in the process of forming a strong squad, had targeted a top-four finish in Ipoh.

Commenting on the game, Sarjit said although his men began well, they made simple mistakes and became complacent, thus leading to their downfall.

“I think we played well enough but didn’t take our chances well. Our marking was loose in the first quarter. It was a good performance although we lost.

“As I said before, we are building a team for the 2026 Asian Games. We still have a lot of time to test our players and prepare for it,” he said, adding that will give about six players from the 30-man squad here, who were not fielded, the opportunity to show their true colours in the FIH Men’s Hockey Nations Cup in Poland from May 29-June 9.

Earlier, three-time champions South Korea avoided finishing last when they trounced Canada 4-1 in the fifth-sixth placing playoff.

South Korea got their goals through Kong Yoonho (15th minute), Lim Dohyun (16th), Seo Inwoo (17th) and Jung Hyunho (24th) while Harbir Sidhu (50th) scored a consolation goal for Canada.