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May 16, 1998 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - Malaysia won an almost certain spot in the semifinals of the world men's team championships of badminton - the Thomas Cup - by defeating Korea this evening, 4 matches to 1. With the victory, the Malaysian side may have clinched a one of the two semifinal berths from the tough Group B, barring a disastrous loss on Monday to the Netherlands.

Malaysia was led by Ong Ewe Hock who beat Hwang Sun Ho 15-6 and 15-10, Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock who defeated All-England champions Lee Dong Soo and Yoo Yung Sung in a thriller 14-18, 15-8 and 15-12, and Yong Hock Kin who notched the clincher with a 15-9 and 15-7 win over Ahn Jae Chang.

Malaysians Lee Wan Wah and Choong Tan Fook lost to Ha Tae Kwon and Kang Kyung Jin 5-15 and 6-15 in the fourth match, while M. Roslin Hashim beat Korean doubles specialist Kim Dong Moon 15-13 and 15-4 in the final encounter.

Ong though did not have an auspicious start against Hwang. It was the Korean who stormed to a 5-0 lead before Ong got his bearings and scored. Ong then went on to win the first game 15-6 with a combination of jumpsmashes, angled dropshots and net spinners.

In the second game, Hwang again stormed to an early lead at 4-1 before Ong pulled even and then took the lead. The Korean though fought hard and stayed close until late in the set at 9-12 when Ong strung together three points to win the match.

Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock had a better start in their match against Lee and Yoo. The Malaysians smashed and attacked to an early 7-1 lead before the Koreans got the rallies going their way with lightning-fast drive shots. Lee and Yoo's style kept the Malaysians from unleashing their superb smash attacks and induced many errors, specially from Yap. Lee and Yoo overhauled the Malaysian lead and pulled away to a commanding 13-8 advantage. Cheah and Yap stopped the Korean run and forced a tiebreak at 13-all. Lee and Yoo though pulled away again to take the first game 18-14.

The Koreans had the early advantage in the second set but gave up the lead with a series of errors. Cheah and Yap then got the game going their way and won the second 15-8.

The decider was closely fought with the two pairs keeping each other within striking distance. With the score tied at 11-all, the Malaysians tallied two points to close in on a victory at 13-11. Lee and Yoo stopped the Malaysians and then scored to put the score at 12-13. Cheah and Yap then regained the serve and Yap Kim Hock finished off Lee and Yoo with two winners.

In the second singles, Korea's Ahn Jae Chang was in control early with a 6-1 lead over Yong Hock Kin. Ahn though began to lose his touch as he tired under a barrage of clears and drops from the Malaysian. Yong pulled even at 7-all and then wrapped up the first game at 15-9. In the second set, Yong was in command and beat the tiring Korean 15-7.

Defending champion Indonesia won the other Group B tie earlier in the noon session, The Indons defeated the Netherlands team 5 matches to none. Heryanto Arbi led off for the Indonesians, coming back from behind in both games and laboring to a 15-10 and 15-10 victory over Jeroen Van Dijk. Olympic men's doubles gold medalists Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky then defeated Dutchmen Quinten Van Dalm and Dennis Lens 15-7 and 15-1. Hendrawan followed with a clinching 15-5 and 15-3 victory over Gerben Bruijstens.

World men's doubles champions Candra Wijaya and Budiarto Sigit whipped Jurgen Van Leeuwen and Norbert Van Barneveld 15-3 and 15-3 in the fourth match. Indra Wijaya closed out the Dutch with his 15-5 and 15-6 over Joris Van Soerland.

In the other noon session tie, favourite China whitewashed Sweden 5-0. Sun Jun had a nonchalant start against Sweden's Henrik Bengtsson but easily won 15-7 and 15-0. Liu Yong and Zhang Wei beat Peter Axelsson and Henrik Andersson 15-4 and 15-9 to put China ahead 2-0. Luo Yigang then struggled to a 15-11 and 15-10 win over the tall and long-armed Thomas Johansson.

In the second doubles, Yang Ming and Zhang Jun, recent additions to the Chinese side, breezed to a 15-2 first game score over Jens Olsson and Frederik Bergstrom, but became too overconfident in the second set, allowing the Swedes to fight back and to win 15-11. A stern talking-to from the Chinese coaches during the five-minute break put Yang and Zhang back on track and the pair put an end to Olsson and Bergstrom's aspirations 15-3.

In the third singles, Dong Jiong played seemingly without interest against Daniel Eriksson and flirted with defeat, dropping a game to the Swede. Dong played just hard enough in the third game to win 15-10, 12-15 and 15-10.

Denmark, one of the stronger sides at the tournament, showed some weaknesses in their bid to capture the Thomas Cup. In the evening session, the Danes beat the lightly regarded team from host Hong Kong 4 matches to 1, with world men's singles champion Peter Rasmussen losing the third singles to Liu Kwok Wa 14-18, 15-6 and 10-15.

Peter Gade, the world's second-ranked men's singles player, had a troubled win over Tam Kai Chuen. Gade had had a breeze in the first game, winning at 15-2, but was extended in a five-point tiebreak by Tam in the second set. Gade then blanked the Hong Kong player 5-0 to take the second game 18-13.

Denmark's top men's doubles combination, Michael Sogaard and Jon Holst, also were extended into a second game tiebreak by Liu Kwok Wa and Ma Che Kong. The two Danes though gained a 15-10 and 17-14 victory.

Olympic men's singles gold medalist Poul-Erik Hoyer clinched for Denmark in the second singles. He beat Ng Wei 15-9 and 15-7. Jens Eriksen and Jesper Larsen won the second doubles, beating Yau Kwun Yuen and Chow Kin Man 15-2 and 15-7.

The Danish side made light of Rasmussen's loss and said that the world champion played mainly to test out his ankle which he had injured in February and reinjured last month during the European championships and that he was not too concerned with winning the match against Liu since they had alresdy clinched.