It wasn’t as if the result surprised anyone. In their current devastating form, Australia were expected to win the final after a brilliant unbeaten record through the round-robin league phase. Therefore, when they beat India 4-0 in the final, there were no raised eyebrows. Between the Aussies and other six participants in the tournament, there was a world of difference but to India’s credit, they held the table-toppers to a goalless first quarter. However, the inevitable had to come as the Australians settled the issue by four goals from Thomas Craig and Matt Gohdes, each of whom scored twice. Australia thus recorded their 9th victory in Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament. In the bronze medal match played earlier, 2015 champion New Zealand beat hosts Malaysia 5-4 in penalty shoot-out after regulation time ended in a 3-3 draw. Pakistan took the fifth place, when they beat Canada 3-1 in the only other match on Saturday.
India took on Australia fearlessly in the final of Azland Shah Cup hockey tournament. Playing to a well laid out strategy, India kept Australian forwards at bay by solid defending in the first quarter. They did even better in the second by launching attacks at the Australian goal on two occasions. In a close miss for India, a cross sent by Chinglensana Singh on the right was deflected wide off the post by Chandana Thimmaiah. After being denied any goals by India for 25 minutes, Australia broke the deadlock, when Thomas Craig collected a diagonal ball in the goalmouth and adjusted himself before sounding the board from an angular shot. However, just before halftime, India had a chance to equalize but Ramandeep Singh’s strike from the top of the circle was deflected away.
As the third quarter got underway, Chandana Thimmaiah found a close-range opening but his push to the Aussie goalkeeper was feeble and straight. In another lost opportunity for India, a 32nd minute penalty corner taken by Harmanpreet Singh was blocked by goalkeeper Andrew Charter. Craig made it 2-0 for Australia with a superb goal in the 35th minute, when Blake Govers sent a cross inside the D and Craig dived to deflect the ball into the right corner of the goal. India had another chance in 40th minute during a melee at the goalmouth, but an alert Chris Ciriello pulled the ball back from the goal-line after Andrew Charter was beaten. India soon earned two penalty corners but Rupinder Pal Singh couldn’t beat Charter on both occasions. Australia nearly took the match beyond India’s reach, when Matt Gohdes scored in 43rd minute after Indian goalkeeper’s block fell in his way. India had another chance after they were down 0-3 but Mandeep’s shot from Talwinder Singh’s pass went wide of the post. 3 minutes from close, Australia completed the 4-0 thrashing of India, when Matt Gohdes scored again. Australia thus earned their 9th title in Azlan Shah hockey. India have also won the Cup 5 times but their last victory had come in 2010, when they were declared joint winners with South Korea.
Defending champions New Zealand had to rest content with the bronze medal after they were held to a 3-3 draw by hosts Malaysia. In fact, the hosts had looked certain winners until one minute was left in the regulation time. They had established a 2-0 lead from two field goals in 7th and 11th minutes but New Zealand fought back. However when the hosts led 3-2 in 59th minute, New Zealand broke many a Malaysian hearts by producing an equalizer from penalty corner that forced the penalty shoot-out. New Zealand converted all their attempts while Malaysia missed one. That resulted in the 5-4 victory for the Kiwis and a huge disappointments for the home fans. In a match for the fifth place, Pakistan prevailed 3-1 over Canada.