Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kumar here, Kumar there, Kumar everywhere..

Hockey Australia media release
When the rain came down and delayed the second match on day three of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia it looked like the Gods were on Australia’s side. The rain saw the humidity drop dramatically and also the overall temperature, which would make their game against the host nation Malaysia a little easier.
   Malaysia and Australia were the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament, and with all the other results going their way; the loser was still guaranteed to be three points ahead of the third placed team.
   Australia started the game positively and mounted wave after wave of attacks, but coach Paul Revington has instilled more discipline into the Malaysian’s and they defended valiantly.
   Craig Boyne should have opened the scoring when an aerial pass put him one-on-one with Kumar the Malaysian goalkeeper, but he pushed his effort wide. Daniel Mirecki shot into the side netting with the goal at his mercy in the opening stanza, and knew he should have done better.
   Australia forced three penalty corners in the first half and although well executed they simply could not beat Kumar in the Malaysian goal. He denied Mitton a surefire goal when the ball struck him on the helmet. He was in inspired form.
   Andrew Charter too pulled off a few crucial saves for Australia when Malaysia did manage to create space to shoot.
   In the last minute Razie took his eye of the ball in the Malaysian defence and Trent Mitton pounced. He drove into the circle drew Kumar as he shaped to square to Josh Miller and then lifted an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
   When they came out for the second half Australia carried on where they left, unfortunately for them so too did Kumar. Australia forced a further six penalty corners and no matter which play they tried Kumar was there to deny them. He pulled of outstanding saves to deny Glenn Simpson twice, Chris Bauser and Daniel Mirecki. There was simply no way past him.
   Just when it looked like Australia would have to settle for a 1-0 victory Malaysia broke out of defence and forced a penalty corner of their own with less than a minute on the clock. The first runner charged the initial drag flick down, but the ball rolled to Faizal Saari – who played under Ric Charlesworth in the HIL for Mumbai Magicians – who crashed an unstoppable shot high into the net.  Thirty seconds later the siren sounded.
    Australia created numerous chances, and as frustrating as it will be that they failed to convert them, they met a goalkeeper in inspired form. The team was disappointed with the draw and the manner in which they had dropped two points, but they remain top of the ladder with Malaysia on seven points with a superior goal difference.
   Australia’s next game is on Thursday 14th March at 4.05pm local time against Korea. A win will guarantee them a place in Sunday’s final and the chance to win a 7th title.

Australia 1 drew Malaysia 1
Goals: Australia - Mitton (34 FG)
Goals: Malaysia - F. Saari (70 PC)

Kumar takes challenge in stride..

S. KUMAR was voted the Best Goalkeeper in Asia, but he only warmed the bench in the recent Hockey India League.
  And instead of accepting defeat, he came back to Malaysia and trained even harder and has proven himself by a sterling display in all three Azlan Shah Cup matched thus far.
  "It was quite frustrating to sit on the bench during the IHL, but it made my resolve stronger and I trained even harder upon my return to prepare not only for the Azlan Shah Cup, but also the Asia Cup and the World League," said the 34-year-old Tampin born player.
  Playing for Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Kumar was only give a chance to play one match in the HIL.
  "I am happy to have helped Malaysia hold Australia, and I believe I have many more good years in me to serve the country. There are many young goalkeepers who are moving up the rank and I am happy with this progress in the goalkeeping department.
  "But if they want my spot, they will have to really prove themselves before I hand over my pads to my successor," said Kumar who continued playing against Australia even after taking two hefty shots to the chest which needed medical attention.
  Roslan Jamaluddin, the second goalkeeper, might not get a chance against Pakistan today, and will probably see action against India if Malaysia enter the final with a match to spare.
  Meanwhile, there is a scramble among Malaysia Hockey League teams to secure Pakistan players for their campaign which will start on March 22.
  Defending double champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club, who lost many players to Terengganu, have secured Pakistan skipper Muhammad Imran as well as four other Pakistanis and an Australian player in their quest to retain their titles.
  Sapura and two other teams are also in the midst of signing foreign players who are here in Ipoh.

Beat Pakistan at all cost..

MALAYSIA are just one match away from making the final of the Azlan Shah Cup, and must beat Pakistan at all cost today in Ipoh.
  With seven points after three matches, the hosts must not throw away this golden opportunity, as their last match against India would be a tougher hurdle to leap over.
  Coach Paul Revington has been in this situation in the Champions Challenge I in Argentina last December where Malaysia won four straight matches against Poland (4-0), South Korea (4-2), Canada (4-2) and South Africa (4-1) before collapsing like dominoes against South Korea (6-3) in the semi-finals.
  And that is why he has warned his charges to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and be consistent in the next two matches.
  "I am not only looking at wins in this tournament but also a consistent display in every match. We just have to remain focused and net let emotions get the better of our plans for the future," said Revington.
  The South African said the present batch of players have the ability to take on the best in the world, and the coaching staff and management are only helping them realise it.
  "Every player has his strength and weakness, and the coaching staff have been doing a great job is making them realise what they can do if they put their mind to it," said Revington.
  The Azlan Shah Cup is just the beginning of Malaysia's plans to get back into the World Cup, while the true test of their mettle will be in the two qualifiers -- the Asia Cup which Ipoh will host, and the World Series which Johor Baru will host.
   Revington knows that the Pakistanis are most dangerous when wounded, more so after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of India.
  "Pakistan are also within a shot of making the final, and I am sure they would want to redeem their pride, what better then a strong display against Malaysia."
   And that is exactly what Pakistan team manager Akhtar Rasool was thinking of when asked on his teams chances against Malaysia.
  "The hosts are playing well and are on a roll, making them  difficult opponents. But we need a win just as badly, as we still have an outside chance of playing in the final, or at least it assures us of a decent podium finish," said Akhtar.

Ric Charlesworth's unkind cut..

AUSTRALIAN coach Ric Charlesworth was not gracious in accepting his team's shock 1-1 draw against world no 13 Malaysia on Tuesday.
  The world-renowned coach, who played for Australia in the first edition of the Azlan Shah Cup in 1983 and lifted the inaugural title, took an unkind swipe when he said Malaysia celebrated like they had won the title itself.
  "The Malaysians celebrated (after the draw) as if they have won the tournament. And they are already talking about playing in the final. There are still two matches to be played and anything is possible,"said Charlesworth.
  He was probably peeved at the fact that in the 78 encounters with Australia, Malaysia have a poor record of winning only six, with eight ending in draws.
  The master-coach has seen more gracious days especially back in 1983 when he helped Australia win all four round-robin matches in the then Raja Tun Azlan Trophy.
  Australia then beat reigning World Cup holders Pakistan 1-0 in the final to lift the Cup, with the winning goal scored by Terry Walsh, who once coached Malaysia.
   Charlesworth, speaking to the media after the draw, said Australia could have buried the Malaysians had his players been sharper in the semi circle.
   "We had some 30 odd penetrations and could have scored half a dozen goals had it not been for the keeper (S. Kumar).
  "Malaysia only had three or four shots at our goalmouth and scored one. And mind you Malaysia has only five or six players that have played less then 100 internationals," said the Aussie in trying to justify the draw.
  Malaysia celebrated the draw with their die-hard fans in Ipoh as they truly deserved their moment under the spotlight.
  And if Paul Revington's men beat Pakistan today, Australia will get another chance to prove themselves against the hosts in the final.