AUSTRALIA needed the experienced Jamie Dwyer to beat a stubborn Malaysia 3-2 in an entertaining Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh yesterday.
The world number 1 could do nothing right until the fourth quarter when Dwyer scored off a penalty stroke and then a field goal. Malaysia fought like Tigers but the world no 12 just did not have the final roar needed to hold Australia to a draw.
Malaysia gave Australia a run for the money when stout defending by Baljit Singh and agile goalkeeping by S. Kumar failed to break the deadlock early.
Australia had a lions' share in the first quarter but Kumar transformed into spiderman and stopped a handful of point blank attempts to keep Malaysia in the match.
The second quarter saw Malaysia open up and start attacking and won two penalty corners but attempts by Faizal Saari and Razie Rahim's were close but failed to give a hardworking Malaysian side the much awaited lead.
Australia did not panic but looked composed as they stoped Malaysia's attempts while slowly moving up again in the second quarter.
Malaysia'best chance came in the 24th minute when Meor Azuan saw himself face to face with Australian goalkeeper Trisian Clemons but his reverse stick just went wide and the world no 1 were let off the hook.
Even though it was a Monday night but still the Azlan Shah Stadium was half filled with a noisy bunch of schoolchildren whose cheers kept the Malaysian team playing with their hearts.
With one minute remaining in the second quarter, Shahrun Nabil was flashed the yellow card and this made Malaysia's task of defending much more harder in the third quarter.
Australia started making some basic mistakes and Malaysia were still in thr game when Ramadan Rosli won the fifth penalty corner in the 39th minute but Razie's high drive was easily palmed away by goalkeeper Clemons.
The world no 1 could only score off a penalty stroke in the 43rd minute when Ahmad Kazamirul brough down Glen Simpson. Jamie Dwyer beat Kumar with a high flick from the spot.
Dwyer again broke the Malaysian hearts when he scored a field goal in the 53rd minute, he's the most capped Australin with 323 caps and an old hand in Olympics and World Cups.
However Firhan Ashari shocked the world champions with a field goal in the 57th minute, but Dylan Wotherspoon quickly doused the fightback fire the very next minute to make it 3-1.
Just when the crown felt the match was over and done with Malaysia won their seventh penalty corner and a push from Kazamirul saw Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin deflect home in the 59th minute but the clock died down and Australia were let of the hook.
In another match, New Zealand surprised Asian Games champions India 2-1for their secind win after beating Malaysia 4-2 on Sunday. The Kiwis now have a realistic chance of playing in the final as they take a days rest before meting winless Canada on Wednesday.
Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai lauded the positive fight:" Im happy with the commitment shown in both our matches so far as wenfought back from two goals down. But it is not easy to play the best in the world but we gave our best."
Australian coach Graham Reid was a relieved man when the final whistle blew: "I think when Malaysia play in ipoh they give their all and even willing to die for the country. I think the posts need to be checked because they must be thicker than usual, because they just keep stopping our attempts (joked Reid)."
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 2 2 0 0 10 2 6
N ZEALAND 2 2 0 0 6 3 6
MALAYSIA 2 0 0 2 4 7 0
S KOREA 2 1 1 0 5 3 4
INDIA 2 1 1 0 3 4 1
CANADA 2 0 0 2 1 10 0
RESULTS: Canada 1 South Korea 3, New Zealand 2 India 1, Malaysia 2 Australia 3.
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).