India finally won a match in the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament. But the win came against minnows Canada, who also fought well to make it difficult for the Asian Games champions. In the hoop-la and undue build-up leading to high expectations before the Malaysian tournament, India’s performance left a lot to be desired. India succumbed to pressure against all teams in their four matches so far and now they have just one game remaining, in which they will face the Australians. In other matches played on Thursday, Australia defeated their Oceania rivals New Zealand 3-1 while host Malaysia went down 2-3 to former Asian champions Korea in their fourth match.
The fragility of India’s defense in conceding goals in dying minutes, was the sum total of their hockey story at Ipoh. They allowed New Zealand and Malaysia to get to their goal just as hooters were about to sound. In sharp contrast, Australia and New Zealand demonstrated the will to overpower their opponents in emphatic fashion. Fortunately for India, they avoided the ignominy of losing to Canada on Thursday as they managed to win that game 5-3.
As the match began, Canada was first to earn a penalty-corner in the 5th minute, but goalkeeper, PR Sreejesh thwarted the attempt by his brilliant save. In a counter attack soon afterwards, India’s Satbir Singh couldn’t beat the Canadian goalkeeper, David Carter. Another penalty-corner came Canada’s way in the 9th minute and once again Sreejesh came to India’s rescue. India, however, took the lead in the 13th minute, when Rupinder Pal Singh succeeded in converting a penalty-corner. India’s lead swelled to 2-0, when VR Raghunath also converted a PC in the 32nd minute but Canada pulled one back in the 43rd through Oliver Scholfield. Playing an attacking game thereafter, India added two field goals in quick succession, when Ramanadeep Singh found the target in 46th and 47th minutes and Satbir Singh scored another a few minutes later. For Canada, Jagdish Gill came up with the second goal in 49th minute and David Jameson scored yet another in the 52nd. Despite having a better share of ball possession, India looked unimpressive and yet again they conceded soft goals as the match was in closing stages. India play Australia on Saturday and that will be toughest test although they are already out of the race to the final.
The Kookaburras advanced into the final with a gritty 3-1 victory over New Zealand. After no goals could be scored in the first quarter, Australia came up with three in a 9-minute period in the second quarter. It all started with Dylan Wotherspoon celebrating his birthday, when he struck in the 17th minute to take the Kookaburras 1-0. Seven minutes later, Jamie Dwyer scored for the fourth consecutive match to double Australia’s advantage and Jeremy Hayward took the score to 3-0 immediately afterwards from a PC conversion. Two minutes after halftime, the Black Sticks reduced the deficit to 3-1. With this fourth victory, Australia are assured of their place in the Sunday’s final irrespective of the result of their last match against India on Saturday.
Malaysia’s hopes of another victory in the tournament were dashed when they lost 2-3 against Korea, who took the lead in the third minute, when Lee Jung-jun sounded the board. The second Korean goal came in the 29th minute from Lee Nam-yong. The Malaysians hit back in a miraculous manner to score two goals in two minutes, when Faizal Saari found the target in 32nd minutes and Mohd Razie did so in the 34th. But a minute later, Korea bounced back to make it 3-2 through Kim Young-jin and the match ended at this score. With their victory, Korea’s last match against New Zealand has acquired the status of a semifinal as the winner will take on Australia for the championship match.