Monday, March 6, 2017


Oman Hockey Association president Talib al Wahaibi (right) speaks to the national team players after a practice session following the team’s loss to Malaysia in Dhaka on Sunday

NOTE: Its a file picture as Dhaka has a blue pitch and no pines surrounding it....
Oman was given a stinging lesson by a much-superior Malaysian side as K K Poonacha's men suffered a 1-6 tennis-score-like drubbing in the Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday. 
It was a reality check for Oman, which had begun its campaign with a dominating 7-0 victory over minnow Fiji in a Pool A game on Saturday.
For Malaysia, the pre-tournament favourite and the top-ranked side, it was an expected win despite missing several key players.
Ranked 13th in the world, Malaysia was off the blocks in the 11th minute when Shahril Saabah scored a field goal. Oman then held fort for the next 15 minutes before Malaysian star Razie Rahim converted a penalty corner to make it 2-0.
Another penalty corner in the 33rd minute found Tengku Ahmad blast past Oman goalkeeper Fahad al Nofli, making it 3-0.
Oman, ranked 31st in the world, raised hopes of a fightback when Mohammed al Lawati scored a field goal off a counter offensive in the 37th minute.
But Malaysia's domination was restored as Aiman Nik Rosemi made it 4-1 in the 42nd minute and Ahmad scored his second goal in the 48th minute to make it 5-1.
Aiman completed the rout seven minutes from the final whistle with his second strike to establish his team's credentials as the title favourite.
Speaking over phone from Dhaka, Oman's head coach Poonacha put up a brave stance. “Malaysia is the 13th-ranked side in the world, while we are ranked 31st. We played good hockey, but there are some areas where we need to improve. Our players did well in the opening two quarters. But after that, Malaysia played well.
“Malaysia is the top team in the competition. We have to get over the loss and focus on our next game against Bangladesh on Tuesday.”
Bangladesh was a 5-1 winner against Fiji in another Pool A match on Sunday, making the upcoming contest between Oman and Bangladesh crucial to finish second in the group.
Poonacha said that match against the hosts is 'between equal teams', adding, “It will all depend on who plays the best on Tuesday, but I am confident of my boys' victory.”
Incidentally, Bangladesh is coached by former Oman coach, Oliver Kurtz of Germany.
Poonacha took over the Oman reigns from the German. In other matches played on Sunday, China fell 2-3 in a penalty shootout against Egypt in a Pool B game after both teams were tied 2-2 in regulation-time; and Ghana defeated Sri Lanka 5-4 in another Pool B contest.
A total of eight teams from three continents, including Asia, Africa and Oceania - split into Pools A and B - are taking part in the nine-day competition.
On Tuesday, the final day of the group-stage matches, Malaysia takes on Fiji, China meets Sri Lanka and Ghana faces Egypt.
The top two teams will qualify for the HWL semifinals, which will be held in London, UK in June and Johannesburg, South Africa in July. The HWL Round 2 is the qualifying tournament for the 2018 World Cup, which will be played in New Delhi, India.