Saturday, March 22, 2014
MALAYSIA qualified for the final of the Azlan Shah Cup and will meet mighty Australia again in Ipoh today.
Even though Malaysia were whipped 6-2 by Australia in the last pool match yesterday, South Korea needed four clear goals against South Africa to pip Malaysia to the final, but the Koreans could only win 5-2.
This will be the second consecutive final against Australia, and Malaysia only lost 3-2 last year.
Malaysia did well to hold Australia to only 1-0 going into the break, but a super effort form the World No 1 saw them score another five goals, before coach K. Dharmaraj's men woke up and narrowed the gap.
The stadium was full to the brim, and supporters stood shoulder-to-shoulder supporting their men, and Faizal Saari was the toast of the match as his penalty corner brace in the 61st and 70th minute was unprecendented in the tournament.
Australia had whipped every team in Ipoh by averaging six goals per match, and only Malaysia scored two against them. The only other goal the Aussies let in was when they beat South Korea 5-1.
"Entering into the match, I knew there was a big possibility of being whipped by the Australians and I had two choices. One was to play cowardly by defending and moving up only on counter, or play our normal attacking style.
"I chose to let the players loose, and not play cowardly, as we are in this tournament to learn, and there is no use in holding the reigns," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia will meet the Australians first in the World Cup in the Netherlands: "After today, believe my players would be much more prepared when we play Australia in the final. This second sparring session (in the final) would also be very valuable against our opening World Cup opponents," said Dharmaraj.
After being 1-5 down, the coach took out goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman and replaced him with Hazrul Sobri, who earned his first international cap against the mighty Aussies.
"Hafizuddin played well, but I replaced him with Hazrul to give him also a chance to play against Australia and earn his first cap. And I believe he did very well, as the only goal he let in was an unstoppable world class flick to the net," said Dharmaraj.
The Australian goals were scored by Nicholas Budgeon (17th), Chris Ciriello (38th, 59th), Russell Ford (42nd), Daniel Beale (43rd), Jeremy Hayward (46th).
RESULTS: Australia 6 Malaysia 2, South Africa 2 South Korea 5.
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 5 5 0 0 31 3 15
MALAYSIA 5 3 1 1 17 14 10
S KOREA 5 3 1 1 14 11 10
CHINA 5 1 0 4 13 21 3
CANADA 5 1 0 4 7 18 3
S AFRICA 5 1 0 4 7 22 3
FIXTURES: Today -- Final: Australia v Malaysia (8.35pm); Third-Fourth: South Korea v China (6pm); Fifth-Sixth: Canada v South Africa (3.30pm).