The Underdogs take up the challenge

Defending champions New Zealand produced a scintillating performance!

15 April 2016

Ipoh (9 April, 2016): Defending champions New Zealand produced a scintillating performance to down Pakistan 5-3 in a high intensity match in the 25th Silver Jubilee Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here today.

World No 1 and eight-time champions Australia gave hosts Malaysia anxious moments, some of which even leading to heart trepidations among the 10,000 fans. At the end of the day, it was the malady of conceding easy goals that led to the Malaysians losing 1-5 against the tournament favourites.

Malaysian head coach Stephen van Huizen replaced goalkeeper Hafizzudin Othman, who had a good outing against New Zealand and Japan earlier, with Hairi Abdul Rahman and the rookie custodian did well in his first test at senior level.

The Australians fired from all cylinders in the early minutes of the first quarter and even had a Jamie Dwyer ninth minute field goal disallowed for an infringement.  The hosts, however, surprised the Kookaburras by taking a 1-0 lead in 24th minute from a penalty corner converted by drag-flick specialist Razie Rahim, his fourth goal in the tournament.

Australia and Malaysia match in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh tonight. Australia won 5-1.

But the Aussies, who last lost 1-3 to the Malaysians in the 1994 edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, rolled back to equalise in the 26th minute through a Jacob Whetton field goal as the match headed to a 1-1 draw by the end of the second quarter.

The Australians, however, inflicted damning misery on the Malaysians in the third and fourth quarter that saw the home defence crumble as Australia led 5-1 with goals from Flynn Ogilvie (40th and 41st), Mat Gohdes (40th) and Thomas Craig (55th) from field goals.

Australia now top the table standings after two matches with six points followed by New Zealand (5), Canada (4), Malaysia (4), Pakistan (3), India (3), and Japan have none.

“We lost in the third quarter. Three goals in two minutes was our downfall. But I must acknowledge that my players gave the Australians a good game. We played an attacking game too and gave them anxious moments,” said van Huizen. “It was only that we did not take our chances well in the penalty corners.”

Australian Assistant coach, Paul Gaudoin, said: “It was an exciting match. The crowd was fantastic here and we had 60 minutes to find the goals after the 1-1 draw going into the third quarter. Malaysia has some very talented and world class players and they showed what they can do against a team like Australia tonight.”

The Black Sticks, who drew 3-3 against Malaysia and held to a 1-1 draw by Canada, were a composed side despite Muhammad Arslan Qadir giving Pakistan the lead in the eighth minute and Jenness Stephen equalised (11th) before Simon Child made it 2-1 eight minutes later via a field goal.

Pakistan’s Muhammad Arslan Qadir scores Pakistan’s first goal against New Zealand tonight. New Zealand won 5-3.

The Pakistanis, chasing their second win following a 3-1 win over Canada earlier, were back in the game with the equaliser sooner. Muhammad Irfan’s direct hit from a penalty corner in the 23rd minute was palmed away by goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex but the ball fell near Ali Shan and he relayed to Irfan who made no mistake in his second attempt as the score stood at 2-2 during the interval.

But New Zealand moved like a ticking clock in the third quarter and scrambled to extend the lead to 5-2 lead from three penalty corner goals – Woods (39th and 42nd) and Kane Russell in the 44th minute.

Mohamed Arslan picked his second and Pakistan’s third goal when he steered a drive from Muhammad Rizwan into goal.

New Zealand head coach, Colin Batch, said: “At the interval we had only done half the job but I am glad we made good use of the penalty corner conversion which had eluded us in the first two matches. It made a lot of difference.”

“Pakistan was pressuring us from the start and it got intense in the fourth quarter. The match could have gone either way had Pakistan got the goals,” he added. “We have to move on after this match and meet Japan on Sunday.”

Canada rode on fine form to register a 3-1 win against Japan and in the process moved up the points standings chart. It was also the first win by the Canadians over their opponents in four previous international tournaments.

The Japanese orchestrated the first move in the third minute with Kazuma Murata making a solo run into the Canadian D but his shot was cleared by goalkeeper Antoni Kindler.

Canada, however, made several circle penetrations but simply unable to break the Japanese defensive wall. Their perseverance bore fruits in the next quarter, first through Mark Pearson who plucked the ball from a defensive error in the 34th minute and blasted past goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawai via a reverse stick shot.

Gabriel Ho Garcia than made it 2-0 in the very next minute by turning the ball into goal from a Gordon Johnstone close range cross.

The Japanese clawed back to score their only goal by Hiroki Sakamoto in the 43rd minute with a soft tap past Kindler but the Canadians had the last say as Scot Tupper converted a 44th minute penalty corner.

“We were better with the chances that came our way but Japan will not be happy with the score. They held better possession of the ball and controlled the game along the way but came away with nothing,” said Canada head coach, Anthony Farry.

“The win certainly gives us momentum for the coming games. We need to improve greatly and as I have said earlier this is just a learning curve for us. We want to give all our players the chance to play and gain experience,” added Farry.

“We have a tough outing tomorrow against India. They have a strong side and we hope to get a good game,” he added. “We will remain optimistic despite knowing we have a very difficult match on hand.”

India will have the services of bereaved midfielder Manpreet Singh who returned to join the team on Friday after fulfilling his responsibilities back home following the sudden death of his father. Manpreet returned to India following the demise of his father hours before India’s opening match in the Azlan Shah Cup against Japan.

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Australia vs Japan Semi Final
Australia vs Japan Semi Final
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Australia vs Japan Semi Final
Australia vs Japan Semi Final
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