Saturday, April 11, 2009

Malaysia in the final!

MALAYSIA earned some much needed respect from their fans when they held World No 7 New Zealand to a 1-1 draw yesterday to advance to the final of the 18th Azlan Shah Cup.
This will be the third time Malaysia will play in the final. Malaysia won silver in 1985 and 2007, and will play India for the gold today.
Overall, Malaysia controlled the match, with deft passes to penetrate the Kiwi semi-circle, but the finishing was poor.
New Zealand won the first penalty corner in the fourth minute, off their first foray into the Malaysian semi-circle, but it was well stopped by the runners.
Malaysia's first penalty corner in the 20th minute was a heart-stopper, as Amin Rahim's flick was blocked by goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex, and landed in front of S. Selvaraju, but his shot was also saved.
New Zealand earned a penalty corner 30 seconds from the break but, again, failed to capitalise.
After the break, Chua Boon Huat made his entry and his impact was almost immediate.
The veteran Boon Huat, with help from Ismail Abu, won Malaysia a penalty corner after the re-start, but the set-piece was well stopped.
Malaysia were finally rewarded for their hard work, when in the 48th minute, a free hit from 25 yards was deflected into goal by Boon Huat and Malaysia were in the driving seat.
But even as the 1,000-plus fans celebrated the goal, New Zealand struck with a Nicholas Wilson field goal and it was back to square one.
Malaysia were flawless for the remainder of the match, and the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, India survived mediocrity to advance to the final. Sandip Singh gave them the lead in the 28th minute through a penalty stroke but Pakistan pulled level in the 50th minute.
Abbas Haider gave Pakistan the life-line with a field attempt, but Sandip Singh made sure India advanced to the final with another penalty corner goal in the 60th minute.
India will start the final as favourites after having whipped Malaysia 3-0 in the preliminary round.


P W D L F A Pts
INDIA 4 2 2 0 9 5 8
MALAYSIA 4 2 1 1 8 7 7
NEW ZEALAND 4 1 3 0 7 6 6
PAKISTAN 4 1 0 3 9 8 3
EGYPT 4 0 2 2 4 11 2

RESULTS: India 2 Pakistan 1, Malaysia 1 New Zealand 1.
TODAY -- Third-Fourth: Pakistan v New Zealand (4.30pm), Final: Malaysia v India (7pm).

Time to polish Kiwis

New Zealand players celebrate after scoring against India on Thursday. The teams drew 2-2.

MALAYSIA are in the running to play in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup, provided they pull off at least a draw against New Zealand today.

India will be involved in a do-or-die mission against Pakistan, as the battle for the final tickets goes to the wire in the last pool matches.
Malaysia have only two silver medals to show since the tournament was incepted in 1983. The only silver linings for the hosts came in 1985 and in 2007 in this illustrious tournament which has been graced by the likes of Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, India and Pakistan.
However, coach Tai Beng Hai's team are playing in a rather diluted tournament, where they beat Pakistan 3-2 and then Egypt 4-1 before collapsing 3-0 to India.
The big guns of hockey are conspicuously missing for this edition, while all the teams here today including Malaysia, are still at an experimental stage for the Asia Cup, or World Cup qualifiers.
And so, the results have been anything but predictable, as Egypt played the spoiler role by holding India and New Zealand, and then the drawn game between New Zealand and India threw wide open the chase to the final.
Now, even Pakistan have a chance, provided they beat India and New Zealand beat Malaysia.
Beng Hai said: "There are no major injuries in the team, and fitness was not a problem in all three matches. I believe we will have to press harder against New Zealand if we want to play in the final."
New Zealand have had their problems in this tournament, and their only victory was against Pakistan. However, all the coaches here have the same thing to say about the Kiwis.
"They drew two matches, but never lost their structure at all. In fact, they have been gaining strength after every match, and are among the favourites this year," said India coach Harendra Singh.
Today's match will also indicate if the Malaysian players are ready to take on the challenge of winning the single ticket offered by the Asia Cup in Kuantan to the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
Today: India v Pakistan (5pm), New Zealand v Malaysia (7pm).