MALAYSIA were brilliant in patches, but lost their script early in the match to go down 2-4 to New Zealand in the 24th Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh yesterday.
Playing in front of a capacity crowd, a handful of horrible mistakes saw the Kiwis take an early lead, and then power to a win in the last five minutes of the match.
Next are world No 1 Australia today, and all Malaysia can do in this match is to reduce the score.
Coach Tai Beng Hai's charges had a pathetic start, as by the fifth minute they were 2-0 down to the Kiwis. There consecutive penalty corners finally saw Nick Haig nail the lead in the third minute.
And even before the defense could settle down, New Zealand skipper Simon Child's reverse stick shot gave the Kiwis a 2-0 lead in the fifth.
Ramadan Rosli, 24, brought out the cheers from the capacity crowd when his deft touch narrowed the game to 1-2 in the 19th minute. Malaysia lived dangerously after that, but a series of saves from goalkeeper S. Kumar kept them in the match.
The third quarter saw a better show from the hosts, with near misses and almost there show. The match finally lit up with 15 minutes left on the clock when Malaysia won their first penalty corner, but Razie Rahim's drive was saved by the goalkeeper and a follow on volley from Azlan Misron went flying above the goalmouth.
But all was not lost in the opening match as a super goal from Shahrun Nabil in the 62nd minute saw Malaysia draw level but off their sixth penalty corner, Andy Hayward nails the lead in the 65th minute, while Shay Neal made sure with a fourth in the 68th minute.
The only good news in the match yesterday was that Azlan Misron was rewarded for reaching a milestone 337 caps, but that recognition failed to light up his game.
In the opening match, world no 1 Australia whipped Canada 7-0 and are looking forward to another win when they play Malaysia today.
Australian coach Graham Reid said they needed to get rid of the cobwebs early, as they struggled against Canada in the early part: "Canada played extremely well, especially in the first 15 minutes to keep our boys in check. But if was good to get rid of the cobwebs in the first match as we play the hosts tomorrow (today)."
"Malaysia are always a tough side to beat in Ipoh, and I expect a tough game, and we need to stop their speedy forward Faizal (Saari) from doing much damage," said Reid.
India and South Korea played to a 2-2 draw, with Korean coach Shin Seok Kyo grinning from ear-to-ear: "We came here looking for a win against India and so the 2-2 draw is quite disappointing, but we are still in the tournament, and looking forward to improve in the next match (Canada)," said Shin.
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 1 1 0 0 7 0 3
N ZEALAND 1 1 0 0 4 2 3
MALAYSIA 1 0 0 1 2 4 0
S KOREA 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
INDIA 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
CANADA 1 0 0 1 0 7 0
RESULTS: Australia 7 Canada 0, India 2 South Korea 2, Malaysia 2 New Zealand 4.
FIXTURES: April 6: Canada v South Korea (4pm), New Zealand v India (6pm), Malaysia v Australia (8pm).
April 7: REST DAY.
April 8: Canada v New Zealand (4pm), South Korea v Australia (6pm), Malaysia v India (8pm).
April 9: REST DAY.
April 10: Australia v India (4pm), South Korea v New Zealand (6pm), Malaysia v Canada (8pm).