Saturday, May 8, 2010

Baljit and Kumar lethal combination

THE combination of defender C. Baljit Singh and goalkeeper S. Kumar played a huge role in the 1-1 draw against South Korea, and more will be expected from them against Australia today.
South Korean coach Shin Seok Kyo acknowledged the fact that the duo were pivotal in handing Malaysia a point.
"We have a very good penalty corner clicker in Nam (Hyun Woo) but he was cleverly stopped because your first runner (Baljit) was so fast that he never got the chance to lift the ball.
"So we had to flick the ball to the left of the goalmouth during penalty corners and the goalkeeper (Kumar) was always alert to push the ball away.
"We could have won the match, if not for the excellent combination of the first runner and goalkeeper," said Shin.
However, the Australians are expected to come out with a plan to beat the Malaysian penalty corner defense battery, and it would be interesting to see how coach Stephen van Huizen counters it.
Kumar, 31, was modest about his display, after being named as Man-of-the-Match against South Korea.
"The result against Korea was a team effort as I have reliable defenders and also hardworking midfielders and forwards to ese the pressure at the back.
"We have trained hard for this tournament but our end target is the Asian Games. So, this tournament is a good avenue for us, as South Korea, Pakistan, India and China will be the teams to beat for the Asian Games gold," said Kumar.
Baljit, 24, is fast turning out to be among the best defenders in the world: "I train hard and also play hard, and the fact that I am the first runner during penalty corners has placed a heavy burden on my shoulders, but I am game.
"If I am slow off the line, then my mates at the back will be placed at a disadvantage as most teams have strong flickers nowdays.
"That is why I try my best to reach the flicker before he can connect to the ball, and feel good when I stop them dead," said Baljit.
Australia have a poor record in penalty corners, as they only scored two off the nine they received against Egypt, but their field attempts will be deadly, and this is where a good understanding among defenders is neded to keep them out of the scoring circle.

Malaysia have a fair chance

MALAYSIA has a good chance to collect points against World No 1 Australia today, provided they play like they did against the South Koreans on Friday.
After a long time, the 1-1 draw against Asian champions South Korea brought out the refreshing side of the Malaysian team. There was urgency, commitment, and above all, the players looked like they genuinely wanted to beat the Koreans.
Australia are a diluted side as compared to when they beat Germany 2-1 to win the World Cup in New Delhi. The blooding exercise saw four new players making their international debut against Egypt, and only six in the Aussie side have more than 20 caps.
It is now or never, and coach Stephen van Huizen knows the score.
"I was not happy with the 3-3 draw against Pakistan, but the 1-1 draw against South Korea I can take with a smile," said Stephen.
And the reason?
"We came back from a goal down, and after levelling the score, my players held on tightly, especially in the last five minutes of the match, and this showed that they are on a learning curve," said Stephen.
And against Australia, he hopes the crowd in Ipoh will turn up in full force to support his charges.
"I had to use different srategies against Pakistan and South Korea as their playing styles varied. And against Australia, we will have to be more vigilant, as they are still formidable, even though it is a young side.
"And playing in front of a full gallery (the Azlan Shah Stadium can take 10,000 fans) would be nice as players do get motivated when the crowd is behind them," said Stephen.
Both the Malaysian matches to date have seen about 5,000 fans turning up each time, and it should be full house today as Malaysia has yet to lose in this tournament.
Australian assistant coach Graham Reid acknowledged that it would not be an easy match, especialy if there is a full stadium backing the local players.
"We have been playing regularly with Malaysia in friendlies and they have always been a difficult side to beat, and with the fans backing them, I expect another tough match," said Reid.
Reid commended Malaysia for hosting an excellent tournament where the accommodation and logistics were simply excellent, but don't expect the Aussies to repay their thanks on the pitch today.
Malaysia have a fight in their hands for sure, but it would not be uphill, as this Australian side can be beaten, with the right playing attitude.

Still an open tournament

Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar (right) receives a medal from Malaysian Hockey Federation secretary Hashim Yusof for being named as Man-of-the-Match against Korea.
Malaysian Baljit Singh in action against Korea.

DAY 2 RESULTS: Australia 4 Egypt 0, Pakistan 2 India 4, South Korea 1 Malaysia 1.

P W D L F A Pts

KOREA 2 1 1 0 7 1 4
INDIA 2 1 1 0 5 3 4
AUSTRALIA 1 1 0 0 4 0 3
MALAYSIA 2 0 2 0 4 4 2
PAKISTAN 2 0 1 1 5 7 1
CHINA 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
EGYPT 2 0 0 2 0 10 0

TOMORROW: South Korea v India (4.05pm), Pakistan v China (6.05pm), Australia v Malaysia (8.05pm).