Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Malaysia hold mighty Australia 1-1

MALAYSIA played like champions to hold mighty Australia to a 1-1 draw in a heart-stoping Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh yesterday.
  The team received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, as they did not only hold the World No 2, but also played much better than the Australians.
  Faizal Saari delivered the equaliser in the 69th minute, but the entire team deserve the accolades for playing their best match under coach Paul Revington.
  It was only three minutes into the match, when Malaysia sounded their intention of fighting till the end, by winning a penalty corner, but Faizal Saari flicked it just wide.
  The national players looked very comfortable with the ball while Australia struggled to contain our speedy defenders.
  However, the Aussies showed why they are World No 2 as they kept soaking all that Malaysia could throw at them.
  Goalkeeper S. Kumar put up a brave front to deny the Aussies, and needed treatment in the sixth minute as well as the 11th minute after taking hefty shots in the chest.
  Faizal Saari, Chua Boon Huat, Marhan Jalil and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin created havoc in the Aussies semi-circle, but were not sharp when it mattered.
  However, a 34th minute lapse in defense turned costly as Trent Mitton scored the easiest of goals to enter the dressing room with a slim lead.
  The Australians never expected Malaysia to play attacking hockey, and they never changed their style after the breather to trouble players who have tasted World Cup and Olympic glory.
  The only factor that lacked in Malaysia was the easy turn-overs which they occasionally handed the Aussies on a platter.
  Azlan Misron was also in top form, and his cross in the 52nd minute was heading towards Chua Boon Huat, but Aussie goalkeeper just managed to Andrew Charter just managed to get a toe on it to change its direction slightly.
  Australia won a total of nine penalty corners in the match, but still, good runs and a steady Kumar between the posts kept them from increasing the lead.
  And it was just waiting to happen, as Malaysia won only their second penalty corner and Faizal Saari slammed home the equaliser.


               P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts

AUSTRALIA      3  2  1  0  11 4  7
MALAYSIA       3  2  1  0  6  4  7
N ZEALAND      3  1  0  2  7  6  3
INDIA          3  1  0  2  7  7  3
KOREA          3  1  0  2  4  7  3
PAKISTAN       3  1  0  2  5  12 3

  RESULTS: Korea 0 New Zealand 3, India 3 Pakistan 1, Malaysia 1 Australia 1.
   March 14: Australia  v  Korea (4pm), New Zealand  v  India (6pm), Malaysia  v  Pakistan (8pm).
  March 16:  Korea  v  Pakistan (4pm), Australia  v  New Zealand (6pm), Malaysia  v India (8pm).
    Note: All matches at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.

India 3 Pakistan 1 (at full time)

THE match was delayed by 30 minutes due to torrential rain, but India were as hot as ever as they beat Pakistan 3-1 for their first three points of the tournament.
  Waqas Muhammad gave Pakistan a quick lead off their first penalty corner in the 4th minute, but Rupinder Pal Singh equalised for India a minute later also off a penalty corner.
  The sizzling match then saw Akashdeep Singh score a field goal in the ninth minute, and the crowd favourites lived up to their billing as there was never a dull moment even though the match was only 10 minutes old.
  Pakistan could have leveled in the 11th minute but Muhammad Irfan Junior made a hash of things with the goal gaping in front of him.
  And the score remained at the breather, with India the better side in attack.
  The match continued at a blistering pace after the breather, but there were more near misses than goals as the crowd were on their feet cheering both sides.
  Pakistan were guilty of muffing eight penalty corners, and India increased the lead to 3-1 when Mandeep Singh fired home form close range in the 56th minute, and it was enough to douse the fire in Pakistan.

Kiwis slam 3 past Korea..

NEW Zealand claimed their first win in Ipoh yesterday when they outplayed South Korea in every department to win 3-0 on a hot and humid day.
  The 4pm start did not help matters for both the sides, but the Kiwis were more sharp in the first opportunity that was presented to them.
  Hugo Inglis tapped in from close range in the fifth minute, and it was evident that the Koreans had given up even though there was still plenty of time to play catch-up.
  And in the 12th minute, Cory Bennett made it 2-0 with a piercing penalty corner conversion, and the score remained until the half-time hooter.
  Andy Hayward sealed the match in the 42nd minute, also off a penalty corner attempt, and the Kiwis collected their first three points of the tournament, while the Koreans also have three points from three matches.

Azlan Shah Cup: The King of Hockey

By Jugjet Singh
(as printed in the 2013 souvenir book)

IT was a routine discussion among ardent hockey lovers in 1982 which saw the birth of a tournament that is now considered as the world’s best invitational.
    Turning page 22 into its 30th year of existence, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup planted its roots as a biennial tournament with five teams, which offered not only board and lodging but also flight tickets in its first four editions.
    It started with Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Malaysia on its humble fixtures, and was called the Raja Tun Azlan Shah Cup. But it was renamed to his current title two years later.
    Teams were clamoring then, and still are, to be part of the prestigious event which has seen Australia win a record six titles, while India are just one step behind on five.
   “It was just a routine discussion with Tuanku back then, looking for answers on how to strengthen Malaysia’s standings at the world stage.
   “Azlan Shah noted that Malaysia always lost out in the first five minutes itself when playing with European teams like Germany and Holland in the Olympics and World Cups because we never got a chance to play against them in other tournaments.
   “And so, after a brainstorming session, it was decided that we organise an international invitational where we will assemble the best in the world, to not only give our players an opportunity to play and improve themselves, but also give the Malaysian hockey fans a chance to watch the best in the world at their own backyard,” said Alagendra.
   And so the idea became reality, and into its Fifth Edition, it had made such an impact, that teams were no longer offered flight tickets, but only lodging and food -- but still the best teams like Germany, Netherlands and Australia always made it a point to come for the tournament if the dates did not clash with their commitments.
    Back in 2003, the then Malaysian Hockey Federation secretary S. Satgunam had said: “The Azlan Shah Cup is a big boost for local hockey because we do not need to travel to five countries to play against top hockey teams. It saves traveling expenses and our umpires and officials gain from the experience at home.”
    In the same article, written by this scribe, the then Malaysian chief coach Paul Lissek was also of the same opinion.
    “It is becoming increasingly difficult for Malaysia, who are in the Champions Challenge ranks, to play against Champions Trophy teams like Holland, Germany, Pakistan, India and Australia simply because they know that they will be wasting their time as the outcome is very predictable.
    “That is why the Azlan Shah Cup should be seen in a positive manner because not only do we get to play against teams like Germany, but also, have the opportunity to play friendlies with them before the Azlan Shah Cup.”
    The endorsements are volumes long, and one would find it very difficult to find a negative report in all the years that the tournament has offered sparring partners to improve the standard of Malaysian hockey.
    Australia have won it six times and look good for their seventh title this year, while India has only missed one edition, and have five titles to show.
   However, the hosts never got a chance to lay their hands on the coveted Azlan Shah Cup, and the closest they came was thrice second in 1985, 2007 and 2009.
     The tournament became an annual event after 1998, and almost every top team in the world had figured in it at one point or the other, but consistency goes to Australia.
     Ric Charlesworth led the Aussies to the First Edition gold medal, and he is still there today to coach them to a possible seventh title.
    Sultan Azlan Shah, the former Malaysian Hockey Federation chief, and present Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) president, has presented the trophy to captains from Australia, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Argentina and New Zealand.
   But he never got a chance to hand it to his own players, and it would be a few more years before that dream can be realised.
    Azlan Shah remained an active hockey player well into his sixties and an important event of his birthday used to be a hockey match in which he participated.
    And at every edition, one would always see him seated at the stands watching all three matches on game day, and the former Malaysian King has truly turned hockey in the country into a King’s sport by igniting the fire 30 years ago.