Asian champions Malaysia scored a narrow 2-1 win over South Africa to become the first team from Pool D to qualify for the quarterfinals of the ongoing Junior World Cup hockey at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, here on Sunday.
Malaysia rode on an own goal (27th minute) and a second half strike from Firhan Ashari (43rd) to register the come-from-behind victory after Matthew Brown put South Africa ahead in the 13th minute.
After registering narrow wins on opening day, both the teams started the match cautiously, not wanting to risk of falling behind early.
But things started to heat up after 10 minutes when Brown converted South Africa's first penalty corner by slotting the ball high out of reach of Hafizuddin Othman in the Malaysian goal.
Malaysia reacted immediately by mounting an attack on the South African circle. South African goalie Rene De La Peyre stood his ground well but was fooled by a deflection from his own defender on a free hit drilled into the circle in the 27th minute to make the scoreline 1-1.
Thereafter, Malaysia had multiple chances to take the lead in the final minutes of the opening half but an agile De La Peyre kept South Africa in the hunt as both the teams went into the break locked at 1-1.
Malaysia continued from where they left after the change of ends and took the lead in the 43th minute through Ashari, who blasted the ball into the South African goal after turning around at the top of the circle.
South Africa had to blame only themselves for missing out on a point. They earned a penalty corner after Ignatius Malgraff cut through the whole Malaysian defense. The corner was then upgraded to a penalty stroke but Brown's attempt was well guessed by the Malaysia keeper Othman. South Africa pushed desperately for the elusive equaliser but failed to break the Malaysian defence.
Meanwhile in the other Pool D match, England and New Zealand settled for a 2-2 draw as both the teams kept their hopes alive for a quarterfinal berth.
England scored two first-half goals through James Gall (14th minute) and Luke Taylor (27th) to race to a 2-0 lead at the break.
But the Black Sticks made a spirited comeback in the second period and pulled one back when Kane Russell converted a penalty corner in the 39th minute before Matt Rees-Gibbs (68th) scored a late equaliser to keep New Zealand in the reckoning.
Other three teams - South Africa, New Zealand and England are in with a chance to qualify for the knockout stage.
But with three wins out of two games, South Africa are placed better than New Zealand and England and need just a draw in their last pool match against the Black Sticks to join Malaysia in the quarterfinals from Pool D.
Both New Zealand and England, who face Malaysia next, need a win in their last matches and hope for favourable result from other pool games.