Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Win or take the midnight train home...

LETTING in a goal 20 seconds from time in the 3-3 equaliser against Pakistan has come back to haunt the Malaysian team's progress into the final of the 19th Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.
Malaysia threw two points away in the blunder, and now coach Stephen van Huizen's men are not guaranteed of playing in the final even if they beat India today, and China on Thursday.
"It was a mistake which might cost us dearly even though we collect maximum points from the two remaining matches," admitted Stephen.
Malaysia have a mammoth task in hand today, as India have been quite impressive in the tournament, especially in their 4-3 win over Australia.
However, all is not lost as India have bungled all their penalty corners, except one, in the 12 goals they have scored in four matches, as they go for set-pieces in the absence of drag flicker Sandeep Singh.
And the fact that Malaysia softened South Korea in a hard-fought 1-1 draw before India beat them the next day, and then Malaysia sapped the Australian team's energy in the 2-1 defeat before India beat them also did not go unnoticed.
"India are playing well but we did them favours in the bruising encounters against Korea and Australia, before they beat both the teams.
"But after a days rest, both teams will enter the pitch as equals, and we have our plans to take three points in this crucial match," said Stephen.
India team manager Harendra Singh admitted it will be one of their most difficult matches.
"It is never easy playing Malaysia, especially in front of their own fans and even though we are unbeaten, it does not mean we will have it easy.
"We ned three points to consolidate our spot in the final, and we want to do it with one match in hand (India play Egypt last)," said Harendra.
Australia, India and Korea are in the best position to fight for berths in the final, while Malaysia will have to pray hard that one of them keeps fumbling in the next two days.
Azlan Misron, promoted to striker from a midfielder, has shown promise but he lacks support upfront with only Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin to play with.
At the back, experienced defender Amin Rahim has been the target of most teams, as he is slow in the semi-circle, so he was moved to the 25yard area against Egypt and it delivered the desired result.
These experiments will players positions will benefit Malaysia when they play in the Commonwealth and Asian Games later in the year.