Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hard-fought bronze for Malaysia..

MALAYSIA won their first bronze medal in the Champions Challenge 1 when they beat Ireland 3-2 in Kuantan yesterday.
   For the record, the hosts only had two fourth placings to show before this which was achieved in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur and 2013 in Argentina.
   And it was also Malaysia's first ever medal in an International Hockey Federation (FIH) open tournament, as the other silver and bronze medals were won at the Azlan Shah Cup invitational and the Asian Games. Malaysia has only won gold at the Sea Games level.
    "I'm very prous of the players as they achieved a milestone in Malaysian hockey today (yesterday) but there is much work to be done in our defense as we prepare for the World Cup which is just around the corner.
   "We had our chance to play in the final but blew it against Canada, and now we will worl to finish at leat ninth (among 12 teams) in the World Cup," said Malaysian coach k. Dharmaraj.
    The coach is also looking at minimal changes to the suqad as there is no time left leading to the World Cup: "Maximum there might be two or three chances to the squad as I do not have time on my side. But after the World Cup, there might be more chances as we prepare for the Asian Games gold medal (Olympic ticket)," said Dharmaraj.
    It was another good start for Malaysia as Ahmad Kazamirul's attempt in the fifth minute hit a defenders' foot and Malaysia were awarded a penalty stroke. And Kazamirul stepped up to the spot and beat goalkeeper David Harte for the early lead.
   And  in the 11th minute,  Rashid Baharom's reverse stick shot made it 2-0, but then, the team had led Canada 2-0 and New Zealand 4-1 before collapsing and taking the match into penalty shoot outs. They beat the Kiwis 3-2 but lost the final slot to Canada.
    Both Rashid and Kazamirul scored their first goals in the last match of the tournament, and there are still three more quarters to play.
    And it happened as Paul Gleghorne scores off a penalty corner deflection to cut Malaysia''s lead in the 22nd minute, and the bronze medal was in danger of slipping through coach K. Dharmaraj's men's fingers.
   Malaysia started playing recklessly as first Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin was green carded and Gleghorne narrowed the gap, and in the 24th minute, skipper Azlan Misron was yellow carded and will sit out for at least five minutes.
    But still by the 35th minute, Malaysia had the bronze in their hands while Ireland were pushing hard looking for the equaliser.
   However, in the 43rd minute the same script was played by Malaysia as they let Ireland claw back into the match, and this time it was a sizzling shot at goal by Chris Cargo which gave Ireland the equaliser.
    Malaysia were in a fighting mood yesterday and kept pushing and were finally rewarded when in the 66th minute, skipper Azlan Misron turned striker and gave his men the lead again.
    Faizal Saari and Firhan then sprinted to the Irish goal-mouth in the 70th minute and after a 1-2 exchange, Firhan easily scored the fourth goal to confirm the bronze medal for his mates.
    RESULTS -- Final: Canada x South Korea x; Third-Fourth: Malaysia 4 Ireland 2; Fifth-Sixth: New Zealand 6 France 3; Seventh-Eighth: Japan 3 Poland 2.

Canada the better team...

MALAYSIA had the final ticket in their hands but gave it away to Canada after a 2-2 draw in regulation time and bowing out 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Pahang yesterday.
    After taking a 2-0 lead, they allowed Canada to claw back into the match and nail the equaliser in the 70th minute. And after five shoot-outs, the score stood at 2-2, but Canada sailed into the final on a 5-4 win after the shoot-out went into sudden-death.
   It was only one minute and 30 seconds when Fitri Saari decided to make a solo run from the 25, and win Malaysia's first penalty corner of the match, with his brother completing his move a minute later.
   Faizal Saari scored his second goal of the tournament with a low push which went crashing onto the board to beat Canadian goalkeeper Antoni Kindler for the lead.
   The Malaysian team were more composed after that early lead but missed many sitters until the 14th minute when local hero Ismail Abu found his scoring touch from an acute angle.
   Ismail, from Felda Jengka 22, also took it upon himself to dribble a fed Canadian defenders before unleashing a powerful shot from almost the sidelines, but still managed to find the small gap between the post and Kindler was beaten again.
    The match was played over four quarters of 17.5 seconds and the crowd took the many breaks in play to dance and enjoy themselves as Malaysia moved closer to the final.
   But Canada had other plans as off their first penalty corner in the 20th minute their skipper Scott Tupper scored to narrow the gap.
     And with Faiz Helmi stretchered out in the 31st minute, the fragile Malaysian defense suffered another big blow with another half remaining in the match.
   Malaysia loved dangerously after the restart, as they kept missing sitters and started to give away too many chances to the Canadian strikers, and  even missed a penalty corner in the 43rd minute, which could have sealed their spot in the final.
    Coach K. Dharmaraj's men started missing too many sitters and they paid a heavy price for it in the 59th minute when Tuppper again scored from a penalty corner attempt to make it 2-2.
    In the remaining 20 minutes, Canada were the more dangerous side but Malaysia got their chance to nail the final spot when they won a 68th minute penalty corner.
    But they bungled, and Canada won two back-to-back penalty corners in the 70th minute, but failed to score and the match went into shoot-out.
    For the second time Malaysia are in a shoot-out and they use the same players who beat New Zealand 3-2. Firhan Ashari, Faiz Helmi, Shahril Saabah, Fitri Saari and Faizal Saari were give the task to take Malaysia into the final, with S. Kumar the guardian.
    The penalty shoot out stood at 2-2 after the first round, and Canada went into the final on a 5-4 shoot-out score.
    RESULTS-- Semi-finals: Malaysia 2 Canada 2 (Canada win shoot-out 5-4); Ireland 1 South Korea 2.
    Classification -- Fifth-Eighth: New Zealand 6 Poland 1; France 3 Japan 2.
    TODAY -- Final -- Canada  v South Korea (9.30pm); Third-Fourth: Malaysia v Ireland (7.15pm); Fifth-Sixth: New Zealand v France (5pm); Seventh-Eighth: Japan v Poland (2.45pm).


Canada hurdle...

MALAYSIA will square off against Canada again in the Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan today, but it will not be
the same as the Group B match where the hosts won 4-3.
   This was the consensus by both coaches K. Dharmaraj and Canadian Anthony Farry who feel it would be a
different ball game altogether.
   "Even though both teams know each other's strengths as we did play them in the Azlan Shah Cup (won 3-0) as well as in Kuantan, but I believe we cant take previous matches into account because at stake here is a spot in the final as well as a shot at the Champions Trophy ticket," said Dharmaraj.
   Malaysia played a super match against Canada, but lapses as well as a penalty stroke and yellow card to
goalkeeper S. Kumar almost saw them lose the match.
   "It was my first international yellow card and I was quite surprised with it as after the match, I watched the video
with the coach and saw that it was neither a penalty stroke or a yellow card infringement when I tackled the Canadian
forward in the group match.
   "But looking ahead, I must again be at my best tomorrow (today) because Canada does have some good strikers
and their counters are quite sharp," said Kumar.
   And in the match against New Zealand in the quarter-finals, Malaysia did take a 4-1 lead but were held 4-4 before
winning the penalty stroke 3-2.
   "It (NZ match) was a bruising encounter but my players are capable of giving their best again, and we will not take
Canada lightly as we keep our eyes firmly on playing in the final," said Dharmaraj.
   The other semi-finals will be between South Korea and Ireland, where the Irish will go in as the dark horses.
   "We have studied videos of the Malaysian matches in this tournament and I can say that the team has improved
tremendously in this tournament and beating world no 6 New Zealand was no small feat. But even though we know
what to do roughly, it will be a hard game for sure," said Farry.
   The crowd in Kuantan had been very supportive and there is non stop cheering as well as singing during
Malaysian matches.
   "The crowd has really been very supportive and I can say that we are in the semi-finals partly because of their
undying support. I call for their support again as they do motivate my players with their non-stop chanting and
support," said Dharmaraj.
    However, the Canadians also enjoy the crowd: "There has been super support form the crowd during the
Malaysian matches and it also works for us as we like the atmosphere," said Farry who will only miss Sukhi
Panesar who was red carded in their bruising quarter-finals where they edged Poland 3-2.
    TODAY -- Semi-finals: Malaysia v Canada (7.15pm); Ireland v South Korea (9.30pm).
    Classification -- Fifth-Eighth: New Zealand v Poland (2.45pm); France v Japan (5pm).

Kiwis beaten..

MALAYSIA beat world No 6 New Zealand 3-2 in the penalty shoot-out after a nail-biting 70 minutes which saw eight goals flying in the quarter-finals of the Champions Challenge I at the Kuantan Stadium yesterday.
   It was May-Day celebrations which almost turned into a Mayday distress signal when coach K. Dharmaraj's men played dramatic hockey as after being 0-1 down by the third minute, they took a 4-1 lead before collapsing and ending up with a 4-4 draw in regulation time.
    The hard fought win will now see world No 13 Malaysia play No 16 Canada in the semi-finals tomorrow. Canada beat Poland 3-2 in the other quarter-finals. For the record Malaysia beat Canada 4-3 in Group B.
   "It was a heart-stopping match because we let in three goals after taking a big lead and my personal feeling was one of agony as I had suffered disappointment in penalty shoot out when we lost to France in the Junior World Cup semi-finals.
   "And it was a Oh No! feeling when the shoot out was being taken as we were down 2-0 but eventually won 3-2 with great saves from the goalkeeper (S. Kumar)," said Dharmaraj.
   New Zealand coach Colin Batch was obviously disapointed: "Malaysia were on an upward trend after beating Canada (Tuesday) and were obviously at their best today (yesterday). We let in early goals, but there was a great comeback only to lose out in the penalties.
    Steve Edwars tapped in from close range to give the Kiwis an early fourth minute lead, but a super fight-back saw skipper Azlan Misron leading by example to score in the 20th minute while three more were from the efforts of Shahril Saabah (23rd, 31st) and Fitri Saari (24th).
    New Zealand clawed back with a hat-trick of penalty corners from Andy Hayward in the 45th, 60th and 70th minutes.
    In the penalty shoot-out, Faiz Jali and Faizal Saari missed and the Kiwis were leading 2-0 at that point before S. Kumar brought out three saves while Firhan Ashaari, Shahril Saabah and Fitri Saari were on target to hand Malaysia the hard-fought win.
   "We did train for the penalty shooot-out as we know that playing the tournament favourites was never going to be easy and we wanted to be prepared for any eventually.
    "We watched how the Kiwis handled penalty shoot out in previous matches and it paid of as now we are one step closer to our target of playing in the final," said Dharmaraj.
    Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah watched the match and said: "They should have won in regulation time when leading 4-1, but never mind, as I'm proud of their fighting spirit and they never gave up."