Saturday, September 28, 2013

Malaysia 3 India 3

IT was purely an academic match to complete the fixtures, but still, the stadium was packed to the brim when Malaysia played India in the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru yesterday.
   Malaysia came back from two goals down to take the lead at 3-2, but in the end, both the teams shared the spoils at 3-3.
   India and Malaysia remained unbeaten after five matches and it looks like the  final today is going to be a sizzler, with very little separating both the sides.
   The Malaysian hero was Shahril Saabah who scored in the 62nd and 67th minutes to take his tournament tally to eighth. The other goal was scored by Rashid Baharom in the 63rd minute.
   The Indian goals were scored by Satbir Singh (10th) and Ramandeep Singh (33rd) and Yousuf Affan (69th).
    Coach K. Dharmaraj also fielded his second goalkeeper Hazrul Faiz, and rested top-form Hafizuddin Othman, and Malaysia played at low gear for 60 minutes before showing their true form in the last 10 minutes.
    The coach even benched himself, to give his assistants the feel of handling a match without his presence.
    "It was a good avenue to rest some of the key players and allow others more playing time in preparation for the final tomorrow (today). The score does not matter, as I now have a better understanding of the Indian side for the final push," said Dharmaraj.
    Malaysia won the inaugural title in 2011 by beating Australia 3-2 with a sudden-death goal, but finished last the very next year.
    Today it is important for Malaysia to show what they are made up, as they prepare for the Junior World Cup in New Delhi on Dec 6-15.
    "We are the underdogs, but my players are not afraid of India, and will play for the title, that is an assurance to all the fans that have been supporting this team," said Dharmaraj.
   India coach Clark Gregg summed up Malaysia: "They have fast players who can overturn any match if the opponents go into sleep mode, and I believe they have a side that can challenge for the top-eight positions in the World Cup."
    First choice goalkeeper Hafizuddin is an example of late bloomers, as he was dropped from the Junior Asia Cup side that won gold to take Malaysia into the Junior World Cup, but has since clawed his way back with sheer determination.
    "Hafizuddin is the kind of fighters that any coach would like to have by his side. I had to drop him earlier because there were two more goalkeepers better than him, but he slowly overtook them over the last two years and is now my first choice. I have a team of fighters, and they are not afraid to take on any side including tournament and World Cup favourites India," said Dharmaraj.
                                P  W  D  L  F  A         Pts
INDIA                       5   4   1  0  18  7     13
MALAYSIA               5   4   1  0  19   9     13
PAKISTAN                5   3   0  2  15  11    9
ARGENTINA              5   1   1  3  10  13   4
S KOREA                   4   0   1  3  4    16    1
ENGLAND                 4   0   0  4  4    14    0

   RESULTS -- Argentina 1 Pakistan 4, India 3 Malaysia 3, South
Korea x England x.
   TODAY --  Final -- Malaysia v India (8.35pm); Third-Fourth: Pakistan v Argentina (5.05); Fifth-Sixth: South Korea v England (3.35)

Lovely battle...

THERE will be no love lost between India and Malaysia in the final group match of the Sultan of Johor Cup today, but love is on the air on the sidelines.
    For India skipper Manpreet Singh, 21, has fallen head-over
heels with a Malaysian girl and has even made plans to marry her after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
    "We met during the second Sultan of Johor Cup (2012) and after exchanging numbers, we kept in touch and love blossomed. I plan to marry her after the Rio Olympics," said the youth with 79 international caps as he is also a regular with the senior side.
    He even took the girl to Punjab, India, last year, and she stayed and enjoyed village life in Lahore.
    "My parents like her very much and approve of our relationship, and she also liked my village very much," said Manpreet.
     Even though he is high on love with a Malaysian girl, his feet are firmly on the ground to rally his men to beat Malaysia today,
and again in the final tomorrow.
    "I love this country, but will plan for a victory for India in both the encounters because I and my mates want to land our hands on the title," said Manpreet.
    Malaysia won the Inaugural title in 2011, Germany claimed the next title, and it will be a tussle between Malaysia and India in the Third Edition.
    "We will be playing India twice, and I will use the first to give more playing time to my fringe players. We will be going for wins in both the encounters, but I will caution my players to play safe and try to avoid injuries and cards because the Sunday match is what matters most," said Malaysain coach K. Dharmaraj.
     From champions, Malaysia turned to chumps by finishing last in last year's edition: "We will be playing with tournament favourites and also one of the strong contenders for the World Cup title.
    "The match will not be an easy one, but I am looking forward to it because it will give me a super chance to test my players against one of the top junior teams in the world," said Dharmaraj.
   This Indian junior side plays hockey until the strikers reach the opponents semicircle, and then change to cricket by slamming in loose balls like they were looking for Sixers.
    The Indian strikers have shown killer instincts which has netted 15 goals in four matches. They have only let in four goals.
    Malaysia has scored 16 and let in six: "We won an average of eight penalty corners in every game, but the scoring rate has been very poor.
   "This is one of the departments that I need to strengthen before New Delhi," said Dharmaraj.
   The Junior World Cup will be held in New Delhi on Dec 6-15, and all six teams in the Sultan of Johor Cup have qualified.
    Malaysia are in Group D of the World Cup, and have England, Pakistan and South Africa for company. In Johor, Malaysia beat England 3-1 and Pakistan 4-2.
                                P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts
INDIA                       4   4   0  0  15  4   12
MALAYSIA               4   4   0  0  16  6   12
PAKISTAN                4   2   0  2  11  10   6
ARGENTINA              4   1   1  2  9   9     4
S KOREA                   4   0   1  3  4  16    1
ENGLAND                 4   0   0  4  4  14    0

   TODAY -- Argentina v Pakistan (4pm), India v Malaysia (6pm), South Korea v England (8pm).
    Sept 29: Final -- Malaysia v India (8.35pm);