Azlan Shah HockeyOn an amazing last day that began with hosts Malaysia being held 4-4 by Canada, India drawing their game 2-2 with Korea and New Zealand holding Australia at 2-2 in the final, the results were delivered by Penalty shoot-outs. When all was over, Canada prevailed 3-1 to take the fifth spot, India took the Bronze medal and New Zealand shocked the Kookaburras to win the title in the 24th edition the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia. Favorites Australia, who had won all their round-robin games before they lost to India on April 11, 2015, also went down to the Black Sticks in the final, when the Kiwi goalkeeper, Devon Manchester shocked them with three saves in the penalty shoot-out. India’s goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was similarly effective in shoot-outs for the bronze-medal match against Korea as he made two magnificent saves and India converted all their first four attempts. For the 5th & 6th place play-off, Canada missed just one chance and embarrassed the hosts with a shock 3-1 defeat.

In the championship match, Australia began in dominating fashion and led the early exchanges. They earned two penalty corners in the early part of the match but the Black Sticks goalkeeper Devon Manchester saved them both. Although, Australia had a higher percentage of ball possession, in one sudden surge, the Black Sticks raided the Australian goal and earned a PC for themselves. Drag flick king Andy Hayward didn’t make any error as he flicked low and into the back of the net. After halftime, New Zealand ensured that their defense remained as strong as ever and thereby prevented Australia from scoring. With just 10 minutes remaining, Australia found the much needed equalizer through Jamie Dwyer, who was quick to deflect a speeding ball that came to him in the circle. But the Black sticks restored the lead to 2-1 from another PC conversion by Hayward with only 3 minutes remaining in the match. Just when the, Kookaburras had the match slipping out of their grasp, they mounted last-minute pressure and earned a penalty-stroke. Captain Mark Knowles was on spot in delivering a 2-2 draw even as the final whistle blew. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the final required a penalty shoot-out. It was also the only time that the final became an all-Oceania affair. As it transpired, the Black Sticks prevailed 3-1 in the shoot-out with Devon Manchester bringing off three brilliant saves and deny the Australians their ninth victory in Azlan Shah Cup since its inception in 1983.

In the bronze medal match against Korea, India made an attacking start with Nikkin Thimmaiah striking in the 10th minute to put India to a 1-0 lead. The second quarter was extremely eventful with three goals being scored in a very short time. It began with Korea’s Hyosik You converting a PC in the 19th minute but 3 minutes later, Satbir Singh struck beautifully to put India ahead once again. In the 29th minute, however, Korea earned another PC, from which Hyunwoo Nam scored to make it 2-2. India were down to 10 men at halftime, when Ramandeep Singh was sent off the field for committing a dangerous foul. But the next thirty minutes remained goalless and the match ended 2-2. Now penalty shoot-out was enforced to decide the match. India emerged victorious, when PR Sreejesh saved two attempts from Korea and Indian players converted four of their first attempts and the fifth was not called. It was a satisfactory end to India’s campaign in the tournament, though they didn’t play to their true potential in earlier matches.

The match between hosts Malaysia and Canada also ended as a 4-4 after the regulation time and in the penalty shoot-outs, Canada embarrassed the host with a 3-1 victory. Only Faizal Saari converted for Malaysia in the shoot-out while Mohamed Firhan Azhaari, Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Nor and Haziq Mohamed Shamsul failed in their attempts. For Canada, Sukhi Panessar, Jagdish Gill and John Smythe succeeded while Brendan Bisset missed with the first attempt. Malaysia earned the ignominy of finishing last in the six-nation tournament.