Tuesday, November 13, 2012
SULTAN of Johor Cup defending champions Malaysia were brought down to earth when they were soundly beaten 5-2 by New Zealand, but it is not game over for the fighting Malaysians.
Playing on the eve of Deepavali, the Malaysians were 0-1 down by the
17th minute, but fought back to draw level with a Nor Faeez Ibrahim penalty stroke goal in the 22nd minute.
And the skipper then led by example when he handed Malaysia the lead two minutes later off a penalty corner attempt.
But that is as far as Malaysia went as the Kiwis scored at will after that and the end score-line was not flattering.
However, the 7000-odd crowd which showed up at the Taman Daya Stadium kept cheering and singing long after the final whistle, as they knew that luck did not favour Malaysia, even though they fought for every ball right up till the final second.
"I expected to lose a match, or two, in this edition, but not against New Zealand," was coach K. Dharmaraj's assessment of the match.
It was spot on, as Malaysia had beaten world champions Germany 3-2 the previous day, and it was a come-back after losing 0-2.
Dharmaraj's calculations indicated that nine points, the least, would be neded to play in the final and New Zealand were an inviting three points for his charges.
India, who scalped Australia 2-0 and then beat Germany 3-1, are now the raging favourites and a big hurdle for Malaysia.
Australia have also placed themselves back on firm footing after hammering Pakistan 5-1 on Monday.
"It has become more difficult to play in the final now, but not impossible. We must take the Australians (today) and then go for Pakistan and India, there is still hope and I and my players are not about to give up just because of one bad day in office," pledged Dharmaraj.
The defense needs to be more alert foor that to happen, as New Zealand were gifted three goals off long crosses which sliced through the entire Malaysian defense only for their strikers to tap in the easiest of goals.
Australian coach Paul Gaudoin also saw the threat in Malaysia, and its vociferous crowd.
"Malaysia, with strong backing from their crowd, is a very dangerous team and can never be taken lightly. We will have a tough time, I predict, but the plan is to take three points and move on after our disastrous start (against India)," said Gaudoin.
Malaysia did defy the odds in the first edition to beat Australia in the final, and lets see if they are game again tonight.
MONDAY'S RESULTS: Australia 5 Pakistan 1, Germany 1 India 3, Malaysia 2 New Zealand 5.
TODAY (Wednesday): Germany v New Zealand (4pm), Malaysia v Australia (6pm), India v Pakistan (8pm).
P W D L F A Pts
INDIA 2 2 0 0 5 1 6
N ZEALAND 2 1 1 0 8 5 4
AUSTRALIA 2 1 0 1 5 3 3
MALAYSIA 2 1 0 1 5 7 3
PAKISTAN 2 0 1 1 4 8 1
GERMANY 2 0 0 2 3 6 0