It was good but that came a way too late for India, when all was lost for them in the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament. Playing their last Round-Robin game, India struck four times in the Australian goal, including a hat-trick from Nikkin Thimmaiah. Though Australia pulled two goals back, India still emerged 4-2 winners. The victory served only one purpose; it didn’t relegate India to fight for the fifth place in the six-nation tournament. Since New Zealand defeated Korea for a place in the final, India will rough it out with the Koreans for the third place in the tournament. In Saturday’s other matches, New Zealand drew 3-3 with Korea but the draw was enough to take them into their second final in the tournament, after they won here in 2012 in their first final appearance. In the third round-robin match, hosts Malaysia defeated Canada 4-1 to record their second victory. In Sunday’s final, Oceania rivals, Australia and New Zealand will vie for the 2015 Championship, while India, Korea, Malaysia and Canada will play for third to sixth places.
India scored a shocking 4-2 victory against the defending champions Australia in their last Round-Robin match in 2015 Azlan Shah Hockey tournament after their otherwise dismal show in the competition. But the victory restored some lost pride for a team that left a lot to be desired in its previous four matches. In addition, India became a contender for at least the Bronze Medal in the tournament in spite of their poor show. On Saturday, they got off to a great start by attacking the Australian goal within the first minute and scoring through a penalty corner that was converted by VR Raghunath. With a minute left in the first quarter, the Kookaburras fought back valiantly and Daniel Beale equalized for them, when he connected to a Trent Mitton pass in front of the goal. In 23rd minute, India restored their lead, when Nikkin Thimmaiah smartly slotted in with no Australian defenders around. Soon after the start of the third quarter, Nikkin scored again. The Indian forward received a great cross from the right and he swept it into the goal first time. Australians were alarmed by a flurry of goals from India and swung into action in the 53rd minute, when Matt Gohdes reduced the margin to 3-2 but just as the end drew near, Nikkin Thimmaiah made it 4-2 and completed his hat-trick as well. The forward broke into a run and came around Leon Hayward before firing a stinging shot high into the goal.
Australia played both their goalkeepers; Tristan Clemons and Leon Hayward and they made a number of commendable saves to keep the score down. India’s PR Sreejesh came up with another fine performance and he denied Nick Budgeon to score from a penalty corner. It was Australia’s first defeat in the Azlan Shah Cup since they lost in May 2010. Incidentally, it was India, who beat them 4-3 in that match. Despite Saturday’s loss, Australia finished on top with 12 points and will play the final on Sunday against New Zealand, who drew with Korea in the next match.
New Zealand, who lost to Australia 3-1 in their earlier match, just required a draw against Korea on Saturday. Though the Kiwis attained their objective with the 3-3 result, they found the fight with the Koreans speedsters too hot in the end. The Black Sticks shot into the lead in the fourth minute through Ryan Archibald but Korea not only equalized in the 11th minute through Nam Hyun-woo, but Nam put Korea 2-1 ahead in the 31st. Ten minutes later, New Zealand could make the score 2-2, when Nick Haig scored for them. In the 44th minute, Simon Child made it 3-2 for the Kiwis but one minute later Korea restored parity, when Lee Nam-yong sounded the board. The match ended at 3-3 but that was enough for the Black Sticks to earn their place in the Sunday’s final against the Kookaburras.
In the last match, Malaysia defeated Canada 4-1 but since India had scored a shock victory over Australia, Malaysia’s hopes for the Bronze medal match evaporated in thin air. Regardless, the hosts ended up their round-robin campaign with two victories. Malaysia took the lead with two goals in a one-minute spell in the first quarter and then made it 3-0 in the 38th minute. Canada pulled one back in the 40th minute but Malaysia scored another goal in the 43rd minute to finish at 4-1. Now the two teams meet again on Sunday for fifth and sixth places.