Sunday, May 4, 2008

Australia struggle against China

The Kookaburras have overcome a determined Chinese team to win the Darwin 4 nations championship after the final match was forced to a penalty stroke shoot out. The regulation time score was 2-2.
The match saw many momentum swings with both teams controlling the play at various stages.Although the Kookaburras remained undefeated throughout the tournament, China will take a lot out of the match which saw them push the world's second ranked side to the end.China started the opening stages at a ferocious pace, attempting to catch the Kookaburras off guard with fast breaks down the left wing.However after several minutes the game settled and the Kookaburras appeared to be in control of the play, with Liam De Young and Eli Matheson active throughout the midfield and forward area.An impressive steal from Des Abbott lead to the Kookaburras first penalty corner of the half. However the Chinese defence remained tight and successfully repelled the attack.The Kookaburras continued to push up forward with Eddie Ockenden displaying his skill with a clever trap in the circle and although the shot traveled just wide of the goal, the signs were improving for the Kookaburras.China lifted their tempo towards the end of the half, testing goalkeeper Stephen Mowlam on several occasions and were unlucky not to have scored when a shot slammed into the frame of the goal.However the Kookaburras seemed destined to score the first goal, with local favourite Des Abbott stepping up following an impressive steal from Jamie Dwyer and cross from the dangerous Ockenden. The Kooakburras maintained their momentum into the second half, with penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner continuing his good tournament form to convert in the opening minutes of the second half to give the Kookaburas some breathing room.The game tightened up only minutes later when the Kookaburras were reduced to ten players following Jamie Dwyer being sent from the pitch by the umpire for five minutes following a collision deep in China's half.A Chinese goal seemed immanent and eventually came at the 48 minute mark from a penalty corner conversion. China continued to apply the pressure and leveled the scores with only 15 minutes remaining following a cross deep into their circle which found Yi Song open despite the best efforts of Mowlam in the goals.Jamie Dwyer lifted his game in an attempt to help the Kookaburras regain the lead but China were playing with spirit, with the prospect of defeating the much higher ranked Australian team providing plenty of motivation.After several close calls in defence which were stopped thanks mainly to the efforts of Mowlam the Kookaburras found themselves with a chance to win the game as the clock ran down with a penalty corner attempt still to be taken.However the shot traveled over the goal, forcing the game into extra time.The momentum changed on several occasions throughout the extra time period however the game seemed destined for a penalty stroke shoot out.The stroke shoot out started with plenty of drama, with the 2007 WorldHockey Player of the year Jamie Dwyer missing the first attempt.When China scored the next two goals it looked likely they would record the win, however a brilliant save from keeper Stephen Mowlam and a Chinese goal that was disallowed brought the Kookaburras back into the game and when the scores were still tied after both teams had taken five shots, the shoot out moved to sudden death.Both teams traded goals on the first three occasions however China's fourth attempt hit the metal frame of the goal, allowing Luke Doerner to step up and convert his shot to hand the victory to the Kookaburras.The tournament proved very beneficial to the Kookaburras, exposing them to world class opponents while also giving them a taste of the weather they can expect in Beijing.Further selection headaches loom for coach Barry Dancer, with youngsters such as Eli Matheson and Des Abbott more than holding their own throughout the tournament, while keepers Stephen Mowlam and Nathan Burgers were also equally impressive.Kookaburras 9 China 8 (penalty stroke shoot out – score at full time was 2-2)Goals – Aus Abbott 33m FG, Aus Doerner 40m PC, Chn Hu 48m PC, Chn Song 55m FG
Hockey Australia media release

MHF want foreign experts

Malaysia's Jiwa Mohan (right) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the third goal against Italy.

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) council yes terday decided that they need to hire foreign coaches to strengthen Malaysia’s defense and attack.
The council also decided yesterday to bid for the Asia Cup next year, which will double as a qualifier for the 2010 Delhi World Cup.
Sarjit Singh will remain as the chief coach, but two more foreign experts will be roped in on a short-term basis to help him.
"Right now we have a goalkeepers’ coach (Shahid Ali Khan) who will be retained until the Asia Cup and Junior World Cup (next year). And we will also hire a coach to train strikes and another to beef up the defense," said MHF president Tan Sri Admiral (rtd) Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor.
This decision was taken after analysing Malaysia’s per formance in the Japan Olympic Qualifiers.
"As an example, we had 43 circle penetrations against Italy, while the Italy and only entered the Malaysian semi- circle 11 times. But still, the match ended in a 4-4 draw and put a dent in our chances of qualifying for the final," said Anwar.
The statistics were also damning as Malaysia had 11 shots at goal, while the Italians only had four but converted all.
The MHF have a few coaches in mind: "But they are not available right now as they are tied with their present contracts. We will get their expertise on a short-term basis as soon as possible," said Anwar.
Anwar also said that the MHF will take up a crusade to give more power to the third umpire when the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Annual General Meeting is held in Los Angeles in November.
"We were denied entry into the final on a technicality when Japan’s equaliser was allowed even though it hit their player’s thigh before he scored.
"So, we will bring up the matter in Los Angeles and push to give more clout to video evidence in future tournaments. Tennis and cricket have implemented video calls success fully, and I don’t see why hockey should not follow suit as the game has become super fast on the artificial pitch," said Anwar.
And on the Asia Cup, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are also expected to place a bid, as three seats to the World Cup will be available there.

Malaysia 3 Uruguay o


In the last day of pool play, Korea maintained their perfect record against Canada (4-0), Italy upset Ireland (2-0) to grab a berth in the Final and Malaysia earned their first win of the competition after an entertaining match against Uruguay (3-0).
Game 13 – Malaysia v. Uruguay: 3-0 (half-time: 0-0)
The first game of the day pitted the two teams at the bottom of the points table, both chasing their first goal of the competition. Malaysia had a slight edge in the standings, having tied Italy (0-0), but both teams already knew that they will meet again in the 5th-6th place match. The play stayed in midfield for a while, neither team able to hang on to the ball long enough to create chances.
Uruguay was more aggressive on the ball, but Malaysia maintained a cohesive defensive structure and had two excellent scoring chances, on counter attacks, that went high or wide. The game was pleasant to follow, between two young teams preparing for the future, but too many individual errors hindered the development of play. Malaysia had a good chance on a penalty-corner routine that ended with Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN unleashing a powerful shot that shaved the post, then another chance in a last second goal mouth scramble during which the ball bounced from stick to stick but did not cross the line.
Malaysia were finally rewarded early in the second half, when Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN managed to push a rebound under Noel DE LOS SANTOS in the Uruguayan net. With their first goal finally scored, Malaysia kept attacking and promptly scored again by Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN. With the result not in doubt any more, and the rain falling more heavily, the pace slowed down significantly and the Malaysia cruised to their first win of the competition with a three-goal advantage.
Game 14 – Canada v. Korea: 0-4 (half-time: 0-2)
Korea had to play without their captain and starting goalkeeper Ju Young LIM, suspended following an incident in their match against Ireland on Thursday. They started the game at full speed, earning a penalty-corner within 20 seconds of play, but it was well deflected by Sarah FORBES in the Canadian net. Canada was up to the challenge, loudly encouraged by a large home crowd, and played their best hockey of the week, pressuring the Korean defense and earning a penalty-corner, saved by back-up keeper Young Hui MOON.
Canada matched the Korean pace for 15 minutes, until Da Rae KIM inherited the ball in the circle and beat Sarah FORBES from close range. Canada nevertheless maintained their aggressive defensive structure and efficiently prevented the Koreans from getting any more clean chances. They also did not hesitate to take their own opportunities and tested the Korean keeper on a few occasion.
Korea scored a penalty-corner in the last minute of the half to go into the break with a two-goal lead. They kept pressuring the Canadian defense in second half but were denied multiple times by a stellar Sarah FORBES in the Canadian net before Da Rae KIM scored her second goal of the match at the conclusion of a fast series of passes through the defense. With fatigue kicking in, the pace of play declined. Canada pushed courageously in the final minutes to score a consolation goal but could not beat the Korean defense.
Korea won the match (4-0) and will go into the Final on Sunday with an unblemished record of 5 wins in as many games. Canada will be happy with their strong performance against the top ranked team that gives them a positive momentum going into the Bronze Medal match.
Game 15 – Ireland v. Italy: 2-0 (half-time: 0-0)
The last game of the day, and of pool play, was critical to decide which team would advance to the Final against Korea: after their unexpected setback against Malaysia, Italy absolutely needed a win while Ireland would go through with only a draw.
Italy pressured immediately the Irish defense and had two good chances in a succession of penalty-corners but Mary GOODE in the Irish net was vigilant. Ireland only had scoring opportunities on penalty-corners, while Italy controlled most of the play in first half. They had a number of penalty-corners, and even benefited form an unexpected defensive giveaway, but could not break the Irish defensive shell, well backed by an inspired Mary GOODE.
The break was reached with still no score, a situation serving Ireland. The momentum seemed to switch early in the second half, Ireland controlling the ball well and passing it in the backfield, forcing the Italians to run after it and to progress only with long hits or isolated runs. The Irish attacks became more dangerous and Nikki SYMMONS (celebrating her 100th Cap for Ireland) missed a golden opportunity when she deflected a drive just over the crossbar.
Italy finally scored on a penalty-corner in the 56th minute with a direct shot by Chiara TIDDI. With the situation turned around, Ireland could not afford to sit back, and needed to push and score. They didn’t help their cause when they were reduced to ten players after a yellow card to Bridget McKEEVER, and Francesca FAUSTINI added an insurance goal, triggering wild celebrations in the Italian camp.
In a desperate last move, Irish coach Gene Muller replaced his goalkeeper with an extra field player. The tactic generated two good chances in the final minutes but they just could not score, conceding to Italy the honor to play Korea in the Final.
The WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier concludes tomorrow Sunday in Victoria when Malaysia meet Uruguay for 5th-6th place, Ireland take on host Canada for 3rd-4th place, and Korea and Italy lock horns in the Final for the coveted ticket for Beijing.
WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, Women – Victoria, CanadaResults day 5: Saturday 3 May 2008
Malaysia - Uruguay 3:0 (0:0)38mn Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN (PC) 1:044mn Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN (FG) 2:068mn Rosmah ASRIN (FG) 3:0
Canada - Korea 0:4 (0:2)16mn Da Rae KIM (FG) 0:135mn Seul Ki CHEON (PC) 0:244mn Da Rae KIM (FG) 0 :355mn Sung Hee GIM (FG) 0:4
Ireland - Italy 2-0 (0:0)56mn Chiara TIDDI (PC) 0:162mn Francesca FAUSTINI (FG) 0:2.
Final Pool Standings: 1) Korea 15pts 2) Italy 10pts 3) Ireland 9pts 4) Canada 6pts 5) Malaysia 4pts 6) Uruguay 0pt