Australia come out stronger than ever

Australia brushed off Pakistan’s hard approach and dominated

10 April 2016

Ipoh, Malaysia (10th April, 2016): Australia brushed off Pakistan’s hard approach in the second quarter and dominated the game with speed and clinical play en route to a 4-0 victory  in the 25th Silver Jubilee Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh today.

The World No 1 stayed on course for their 11th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final appearance on Saturday bearing no upsets in their remaining matches against New Zealand (April 12), Japan (April 13) and Canada on Friday. The Aussies clinched the title eight times and were runner-up in 1999, 2006 and last year.

In other matches, defending champions New Zealand registered a 4-1 win over Japan and India edged Canada 3-1 to march forward. Australia leads the standings with nine points while the Kiwis are one point adrift on eight followed by India (6), Malaysia and Canada on four-equal points, Pakistan (3) and Japan (0).

The last time Australia failed to get more than one goal against Pakistan was at the Melbourne Champions Trophy in 2012 but they were far organised today against the Pakistanis who enrolled eight junior players from the South Asian Games gold-medal winning team that beat India 1-0 in the final.

Australia’s Jacob Whetton in action against Pakistan in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh on Sunday. Australia won 4-0.

It took the Aussies 24 minutes to break the deadlock with a Blake Govers’ goal. A switch in variation stumped the Pakistanis, who are on a mission to re-establish themselves, when Chris Ciriello relayed the ball to Govers instead of taking a direct shot.

Veteran Jamie Dwyer, the most brilliant and effective player among the Aussies, cleverly orchestrated the second goal in the 41st minute with a one-touch to Thomas Craig who had the easiest job of tapping the ball past goalkeeper Imran Butt. Dawyer himself added his name to the score card in the very next minute.

The Australians rounded up for the night with a 52nd minute Aran Zalewski field goal, leaving Pakistan hapless and pondering what went wrong.

“We know Pakistan is a good team and will pressure us and we got our opportunities in the second and third quarters,” said Australian captain Dawyer. “Our focus is on playing same good hockey in our remaining matches and move up from here.”

Pakistan team manager, Muhammad Kawaja Junaid, admitted the Kookaburras will not be easy to contain but keeping the score low and playing the best to their ability was the game-plan going into the match.

“Considering that they are World No 1 and we are 11 rungs behind, my players had a good start. We added pressure on Australia and at the time planned to limit their movement on the field. But they are very agile and skilful side,” said Kawaja, adding that Pakistan’s next match against India on Tuesday is expected to be explosive as both teams are known for their traditional style of the game.

New Zealand continued their march for their second straight win after demolishing Pakistan 5-3 on Saturday on the back of two drawn matches against Malaysia (3-3) and Canada (1-1) earlier.

The Black Sticks opened scoring in the 4th minute through Nick Wilson and Simon Child doubled the advantage (13th). Kazuma Murata reduced the deficit for Japan five minutes after start of the second quarter.

However New Zealand stepped up the pace as the Japanese wilted playing their second successive match under the scorching heat and humidity that affected them. Nick Woods converted a 27th minute penalty corner and Hugo Inglis put the issue beyond doubt by scoring the fourth in the 58th minute.

India paraded Manpreet Singh against Canada, his first match in the tournament. The midfielder returned to Malaysia on Friday after fulfilling his responsibilities back home following the sudden death of his father last week.

The last encounter between India and Canada was a year ago here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup when India prevailed 5-3. Playing a close-marking game and banking on quick turnovers, India opened accounts through Chandanda Thimmaiah in the third minute while the Canadians pulled one back via Keegan Pereira (23rd). It took the genius of Harmanpreet Singh to put India 2-1 ahead from a 41st minute penalty corner.

India’s coach Roelant Oltmans, however, was unhappy with goalkeeper Harjot Singh’s performance in the first quarter when he stopped the ball with the back of his stick and gave away a penalty corner. Harjot was replaced by Akash Chikte at the start of the second quarter and never saw action in the remaining minutes.

Team captain Sardar Singh orchestrated India’s third goal with a brilliant run down the left flank, dummied two defenders and crossed the ball into the semi-circle where the waiting Talwinder Singh picked it up and smashed past goalkeeper David Carter.

“The reason I took out Harjot (goalkeeper) is because I don’t condone such silly mistakes. How can a goalkeeper do such a thing? It is absurd,” said the Dutchman.”We did not really have a good game in the first quarter but we played much better organised game. There were more chances and we deserve this win.”

India’s next matches are against Pakistan on Tuesday, New Zealand (April 13) and Malaysia on April 15. Having lost to Australia 1-5, and defeated Japan 2-1, India will have to up their game to stay in touch with the leader’s board.

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