Golden Goal Win For Australia


Craig Victory scored a golden goal, a deflection in the 81st minute, to give Olympic Champions Australia an amazing 4-3 victory over Asian Games champions South Korea in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.

With this win, Australia have retained the Azlan Shah Cup, which they also won in 2004 beating Pakistan in the final.
South Korea were almost at victory’s doorstep after they had taken a 3-1 lead but the Aussies showed that they were worthy Olympic Champions by staging one of the most brilliant comeback wins in Azlan Shah history.

For Australia, the scorers were, Michael McCann (9th, 62nd), Luke Doerner (53rd) and Craig Victory (81st).

For South Korea, the scorers were, Seong Jung Kang (27th), Jong Ho Seo (28th) and Jong Hyung Jang (38th).

The match certainly lived up to its billing. After an initial slow start, both the teams settled down and made some breathtaking moves with the midfield constantly going for speedy breaks.

Australia did take the lead but it were the Koreans who looked dangerous on the breaks.

In the ninth minute, a cross from the left flank was neatly trapped by Michael McCann who made no mistake with his shot.

South Korea continued to press and came close on a number of occasions. Jamie Dwyer, Grant Schubert also had a couple of sharp of chances but couldn’t trap when in front of the goal.

In the 26th minute, Jong Ho Seo had a clear look at the goal with the goalkeeper stranded but his shot just went past the post.

A minute later, Korea equalised off their second penalty corner. After the flick had been saved by the Australian goalkeeper Stephen Mowlam, Seoung Jung Kang picked it up from a maze of Korean and Aussie legs and pushed it into goal.

A minute later came the move of the tournament. Nam Yong Lee sent a cross from the half-line that beat the entire Aussie defence to be trapped by Jong Ho Seo who cut into the Aussie striking circle to send a flash of a strike past the Australian goalkeeper. The Asian Games champions now led the Olympic Champions 2-1 at the break.

Three minutes after the break, before the Aussies could even settle down, Korea struck with their third goal. Jong Hyung Jang’s flick was so fast that the Australian goalkeeper couldn’t even react as the ball crashed into the net.

Australia could have cut the lead in the 44th minute when Jamie Dwyer saw his shot come off the post but the rebound collected by Grant Schubert was shot out.

Finally, Australia earned their second penalty corner in the 53rd minute and Luke Doerner’s low flick beat the Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko.

Both the teams slowed down the pace, visibly tired by the killing pace in the first half.

After a few close calls for the Korean defence, the Aussies persistence paid off when Micheal McCann scored his second field goal but importantly Australia’s equaliser in the 62nd minute.

The match could have turned Korea’s way when Liam de Young was shown the yellow card in the 66th minute but Australia even though down to ten men rallied to attack and earn a 68th minute penalty corner. But the indirect variation was well-judged by the Korean defence.

With only 20 seconds left on the clock, Australia got their fifth penalty corner but the Korean defence somehow managed to keep out the flick and the rebound.

After the teams had played out the first half of extra-time, pace rose in the second half as both Australia and Korea went all out to snatch a golden goal victory.

But the defences were solid with the Korean goalkeeper outstanding on the day.

Seconds after Korea had missed an open chance, Australia counter-attacked with Grant Schubert flying down the right flank and sending a brilliant cross that was deflected in by Craig Victory for the golden goal.

Pak Win Bronze

Pakistan made heavy weather of their bronze-medal match against the Kiwis before prevailing 4-2 to round off their Azlan Shah Hockey campaign with a bronze medal here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

Pakistan had taken a 2-0 lead through Rehan Butt (10th) and Adnan Zakir (17th) before the Kiwis powered back to equalise with Dean Couzins (21st) and Richard Petherick (27th) getting the break- throughs.

At the break, the scores were tied at 2-2.

The Kiwis had their share of goal scoring chances and could have taken the lead but their frontline was fumbling in the Pakistan striking circle.

Just when it seemed that the match might enter into extra-time, Mudassar Ali Khan scored off a brilliant field goal.

Three minutes left in the match, Pakistan a had a free hit and the shot was deflected in by Rehan Butt who scored his second and Pakistan’s fourth goal of the match.

Deepak Loses Temper


Former Indian captain and coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran was angry with Indian striker Deepak Thakur for getting a red card in the 5th-6th play-off match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.

With the scores at 1-1 and four minutes left in the match, India seemed to have scored from their 6th penalty corner when Len passed it to Deepak who tapped in. But Malaysian skipper Kuhan ran after the Pakistan umpire Rana Muhammad Liaqat protesting that the goal was scored by a back-stick. As the Malaysians surrounded Liaqat, the South African umpire Zain McLaren also went up and after some consulting, the Indian goal was taken away. Now it was the turn of the Indians to protest and they surrounded the umpires. Before it could have got out of hand, Dilip Tirkey took his players away and the match again began.

But in the very next minute, Deepak was struck on the face by Jiwa Mohan’s stick which was unintentional. But the Indian striker went after the Malaysian player and after heated tempers, both the players were shown the red card.

Bhaskaran, who is here as an observer for Indian Hockey Federation said, “I don’t know why he lost his cool at such a sensitive point in the match. I think running after the opponent’s player is not asked for. What if it had got ugly with the entire team getting suspended?”

Bhaskaran said that players do sometimes get frustrated over bad decisions. “But it should have been taken sportingly by Deepak,” explained Bhaskaran. “His goal was disallowed and that must have upset him. But he needed to take it sportingly. There was no need to get into a fight knowing that the umpire will have flash a red card.”
Deepak was lucky that it was the last match of the tournament so the automatic one-match suspension doesn’t hold good. But Bhaskaran said, “The International Hockey Federation takes notice of all these infringements. The umpires would also be careful with him. As a player, and a senior at that, he should have been more careful.”

Prabhjot Scores Golden Goal

Prabhjot Singh scored a golden goal, in a match marked by frayed tempers, to give India a 2-1 victory over hosts Malaysia to finish fifth in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

With the scores at 1-1 and four minutes left in the match, India seemed to have scored from their 6th penalty corner when Len passed it to Deepak who tapped in. But Malaysian skipper Kuhan ran after the Pakistan umpire Rana Muhammad Liaqat as the Indians celebrated. As the Malaysians surrounded Liaqat, the South African umpire Zain McLaren also went up and after some consulting, the Indian goal was taken away. Now it was the turn of the Indians to protest and they surrounded the umpires. Before it could have got out of hand, Dilip Tirkey took his players away and the match again began.

But in the very next minute, Deepak was struck on the face by Jiwa Mohan’s stick which was unintentional. But the Indian striker went after the Malaysian player and after heated tempers, both the players were shown the red card.
Both the teams played with ten men for the remainder of the match.

In a tense match with India looking to avenge the 1-4 defeat in the league match, it was Malaysia who shot into the lead in the 3rd minute when a cross was brilliantly trapped by Malaysian forward Hairul Nizam in the Indian striking circle. With no defender marking him, a lapse by both skipper Dilip Tirkey and Len Aiyappa, Hairul let loose a first timer that beat Devesh Chauhan.

Stung by the Malaysian goal, India built up it’s momentum. But the first strike at the Malaysian goal only came in the 19th minute when India won it’s first penalty corner. Len Aiyappa’s flick was on target for India to equalise.

With the scores at 1-1, both the teams were cautious in the midfield and defence. The moves were built up but with two forwards upfront for both the teams, it was difficult creating chances in the striking circle.

At the break, the scores were 1-1.

India could have taken the lead in the 47th minute off their fourth penalty corner but four consecutive chances in the Malaysian striking circle went abegging.

Indian forwards still kept missing chances. A Rajpal cross from the right flank found Inderjeet Chadha without a marker but his shot was wide off the mark. In the very next minute, 50th minute, Sandeep Michael had the goalkeeper in front but he shot onto the pads.

India were creating the chances as the hosts decided to go onto the defensive.

With four minutes to go, India would have wrapped up the match but Arjun Halappa shot out after being put through with a brilliant pass from Deepak.

And then came the controversy with a disallowed goal and red cards to Deepak Thakur and Kiwa Mohan.

As the extra-time began, India again dominated with Ignace and Devendra Pal Singh throwing up the through passes.

In the 74th minute, India wasted two penalty corners.

The match-winner and the golden goal came in the 76th minute off a move from the right flank. Arjun Halappa cut into the circle and gave it to Rajpal Singh whose tap found Prabhjot Singh and the Indian striker sent it into the goal past the Malaysian goalkeeper.

Exciting Final On Cards


The tags of Olympic Champions and Asian Games Champions won’t mean much when Australia and South Korea clash in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

Both the teams have shown tremendous form and also moments of lapses in concentration making it difficult for anyone to hazard a guess as to whether it will be a Korean or an Australian captain who would be lifting the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

Olympic Champions Australia have played well in patches to accumulate 14 points in six matches winning four and drawing two for an unbeaten record.

Asian Games Champions South Korea have 13 points with four wins, a draw and one loss. The loss coming against Pakistan who they ultimately edged out on goal difference to enter their fourth Azlan Shah final. Korea have won the Cup once in 1996 when they beat Australia in the final.

Both the coaches maintain that the teams are rebuilding for the Champions Trophy in December and the World Cup in 2006. But it is Australia who are playing their Olympic winning team except for Troy Elder who decided to play the Dutch league.

South Korea who were only 15 seconds away from a semi-final finish at the Athens Olympics but then slid to eighth position have a younger set of players and a new coach in Cho Myung Jun.

Olympic silver medallists in the 2000 Olympics, Korea have shown enough class in this edition to worry Australian coach Barry Dancer.

“It’s not that we underestimate Korea,” says Dancer. “But as a team we will have to play 70 minutes of consistent hockey.”

In their last league match against India, Australia squeezed through with a narrow 1-0 victory, the match-winner coming in the 65th minute. Cho Myung would probably have a look at that match again and understand how a young Indian defence tackled the Australian forwards effectively.

If Australia relies on sudden bursts of speed in the opponents half, Korea have over the years tried to play consistent hockey for large periods of the match. With a speedy midfield never missing out on an opportunity to build moves, Korea have always used sustained pressure on the opponents defence.

Dancer was, however, happy with the narrow 1-0 result against India. “The result makes me happy as now I have almost two days to prepare for the final and we would like to make some changes that could help us retain the title.”
A lot would also depend on the form of skipper Brent Livermore, Australia’s master mind in the midfield. Against India, his own form dipped a bit and the attack lost that cutting edge.

For Korea, the man in form is Seong Jung Kang. Though a bit temperamental, Kang has the skills to turnaround a match and combined with his penalty corner flicks, Korea has a potential match-winner.

The other three heavy-weights in the Korean side skipper Hyung Bae Han, Jong Ho Seo and Kyung Seok Kim have played more than 450 matches between themselves and it’s their experience that would come in handy.

“The Aussies are Olympic Champions and if we are able to beat them, it would be a terrific shot in the arm for Korean hockey,” says coach Cho Myung.

In the other matches on Sunday, Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman would definitely like to win a bronze medal atleast after the bitter disappointment of losing to hosts Malaysia, their only defeat in the tournament, that prevented them from entering the final. “We have quite a few juniors in the side,” says Tahir. “Playing a final would have been a great experience for them. But the boys would like to end the tournament on a winning note against New Zealand.”

Three-times champions India would be playing hosts Malaysia for the 5th-6th positions. In the league phase, Malaysia had beaten India 4-1 and for coach Rajinder Singh jr, it is important that the result is not repeated. India have come with a few inexperienced players but also have been let down by the indifferent showing of senior players too. “The performance here has shown us where we need to plug in the gaps,” said Rajinder jr. “And I think we need to make a beginning against Malaysia itself and try and finish fifth in the tournament.”


Malaysia Stun Pak

Hosts Malaysia stunned three-times Azlan Shah winners Pakistan 1-0 to keep the former world champions out of a place in the Sultan Azlan Shah final. Pakistan’s defeat gives Asian games champion South Korea a place in the 2005 Azlan Shah final.

Olympic and reigning Azlan Shah champions now meet Asian Games champion South Korea in Sunday’s final.

Pakistan have only themselves to blame. Even when they were 0-1 down, Pakistan still dominated the midfield but self-destructed in panic clashing with a couple of Malaysian players and thus losing their cool.

Pakistan captain himself once threw away his stick in anger when a decision went against Pakistan.

But Malaysia, with the crowd behind them, never let the momentum go. They defended with aplomb and cut through the midfield whenever the opportunity came. Skipper S Kuhan had a great game in the second half where he kept his cool and cleared away some sharp shots from the Malaysian striking circle.

It was apt that the captain himself scored the goal that turned out to be the match-winner. Malaysia had a penalty corner in the 40th minute, the first of the two they had in the match, and Kuhan stepped up to hit a sizzler that went low beating Salman Akhbar in the Pakistan goal.

Malaysia also have to be indebted to their goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin who played brilliantly to keep the Pakistan field attempts and penalty corners at bay. Pakistan had six penalty corners and an almost equal number of field strikes but Roslan, who usually always plays his best against Pakistan was brilliant.

Pakistan missed their striker Shakeel Abbasi with an injury and even their penalty corner convertor Mohammed Imran was playing with a fracture on his little finger.

Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman was bitterly disappointed that Pakistan couldn’t make it to the final. “I think we dominated for almost 55 minutes but Malaysia had a good defensive game.”

Tahir was also critical of his players for losing their composure in the match and blamed them for not keeping up the pressure on the host team.

Pakistan who are equal with Korea on 13 points but have an inferior goal difference now play New Zealand for 3rd/4th position. Reigning champions will take on South Korea in the final. India will play hosts Malaysia for the 5th/6th spot while South Africa have finished in the 7th position.

Aus In Final

Jamie Dwyer’s brilliant strike took Olympic champions Australia into the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey final beating India 1-0 in their last league match here at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Friday. For defending champions Australia, this will be their fourth Azlan Shah final.

Australia were held back by a fighting Indian side till the 65th minute when a sluggish Devesh Chauhan allowed 2004 Player-of-the-year Jamie Dwyer to smash in a reverse shot that whizzed past his left pad to end up in the corner. For Jamie Dwyer, it was his fourth goal of the tournament.

After six matches, Australia remain unbeaten with four wins, two draws to finish with 14 points.

Though, Australia dominated with five penalty corners and as many circle penetrations, the Indian defence today did a good job of holding the ball and taking their time to clear with through passes.

Even though Australian midfielder and skipper Brent Livermore was pushing in the through balls, the Indian defence quite tight on the day were coming up and snatching the balls.

Australia did dominated the first half but India had a couple of chances on the counter-attack. Prabhjot Singh had a clear look at goal but hurried with the shot, the ball going wide off the post. Five minutes before the break, Sandeep Michael burst through the Aussie striking circle and could have taken the shot himself but surprisingly gave the ball to Prabhjot Singh who was marked by an Aussie defender.

Australia wasted four penalty corners, their flicks and indirect variations way off the mark.

At the break, both the teams were tied goalless.

Tight marking was the hall-mark of the second half as both the teams tried to attack through the middle. The Aussies normally superb when it comes to trapping missed quite a few just outside the Indian striking circle giving the advantage away.

With minutes ticking away and the Aussies requiring a victory to take them to the final, Jamie Dwyer missed with Devesh way off his mark.

In the next minute, India earned their first penalty corner and with Len on the bench, Dilip’s shot was saved by the Australian goalkeeper.

But with five minutes left, an attack from the Australian right flank saw a cross falling to Jamie on the left corner of the Indian striking circle. The Australian striker’s reverse shot was good enough to beat a surprised Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan.

With two minutes left, India had their second penalty corner and a golden chance was wasted when Len’s flick rebounded off Lambert’s pads but Sandeep Michael right in front of the Aussie goal shot it out.

India with one win, one draw and four losses finish with four points and should play Malaysia who have to beat Pakistan by six goals to play for third and fourth.

Korea Beat SA

Asian Games champions South Korea were made to struggle all the way before getting the better of South Africa 3-2 in their last league match here in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. South Africa could have swung the match their way in the second half but Steve Philips missed a couple of opportunities with only the goalkeeper in front.

South Korea, needing a win, to remain in contention for a place in the final provided Pakistan lose to hosts Malaysia in the day’s last match, scored through Jong Hyun Jang (20th), Kyung Seok Kim (45th) and Jong Ho Seo (68th).
For South Africa, without a win through the tournament, the goals came through Justin King (7th) and Steve Philips (57th).

Desperate for their first win in the tournament, South Africa took an early lead in the 7th minute when Justin King converted a penalty corner.

Korea equalised in the 20th minute when Jong Hyun Jang also converted a penalty corner.

At the break, both the teams were tied 1-1.

With the humidity hovering around the 80 percent mark, it was hard work for the teams in the middle, especially for Korea who had played a tough match on Thursday winning 6-4 against New Zealand. The pace was missing as the midfield struggled.

But it was South Korea who broke the deadlock in the 45th minute when Kyung Seok Kim converted a penalty stroke which was awarded after the ball struck a South African defenders hand in front of the goal.

South Africa equalised in the 57th minute when Steve Philips trapped a cross and pushed it past the diving South Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko.

Steve could have given the lead to his team but he missed two opportunities in the Korean striking circle.

Finally with both the teams visibly tired out, Korea got a lucky break and sped down the middle with Jong Ho Seo scoring from the top of the circle.

NZ Win Thriller

Asian Games champions South Korea came back from being 1-3 down to win a thriller 6-4 against New Zealand and keep their hopes alive of playing their final in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium.

South Korea after five matches have ten points and are still in contention for a place in the final. Pakistan and Australia are ahead with 13 and 11 points but a few upsets could change calculations.

The Kiwis started strongly going ahead 2-0 within the first five minutes. Philips Burrows gave the lead to New Zealand in the 4th minute and then Geredh Brooks made it 2-0 in the 5th minute.

Korea forced the pace and opened their scoring in the 9th minute when Sung Hoon Yoon shot in from the right flank.

But New Zealand taking advantage of the space created by the Korean midfield scored their third in the 20th minute when Bryce Collin squeezed in a shot inside the post.

For almost ten minutes, both the teams played possession hockey and didn’t take too many risks, willing to wait for the other team to commit mistakes.

New Zealand committed a mistake in the striking circle giving away a penalty corner to Korea who converted in the 33rd minute to cut the Kiwi lead to 2-3.

At the break, New Zealand led 3-2.

Two minutes into the second half, Korea equalised with Byung Hoon Kim converting a penalty corner.

Korea, now playing confidently in the midfield, shot into the lead in the 40th minute when Kyung Seok Kim converted a penalty stroke.

New Zealand threw in everything upfront looking for a equaliser and got it in the 42nd minute when Geredh Brooks converted a penalty corner to tie the scores at 4-4.

By now it was anybody’s game as both the teams were looking for goals. For Korea it was important to win if they were to stay in contention for a place in the final.

But taking advantage of New Zealand losing Philips Burrows to a yellow card suspension in the 61st minute, Korea charged into the empty gaps in the midfield with Hyo Sik Yu scoring from a hand-shaking distance with the goalkeeper.

With the most of the Kiwi team upfront looking for another equaliser, Jong Ho Seo took advantage of a defenceless Kiwi team to go alone into the Kiwi striking circle and shoot past the goalkeeper Paul Woolford in the 70th minute.

Pak Bt India

Pakistan beat India 3-2 in a close fought battle that threw up another sub-continental hockey classic in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium. India played their best hockey in the tournament, though it came in the second half to score twice and threaten to equalise a 3-0 lead that Pakistan had taken in the first half.

Pakistan now go to the top of the league standings with 13 points and a match in hand. India remain on four points with sixth place in the standings.

Pakistan’s goals came through Adnan Zakir (7th), Rehan Butt (11th) and Akhtar Ali (30th). For India the scorers were Deepak Thakur (49th) and Sandeep Micheal (53rd)

Pakistan were into the attack in the very first minute earning a penalty corner. With India not resorting to man-to-man marking the Pakistan forwards found the space to rotate the ball making the Indians run around in their own striking circle.

India had a sharp chance in the 6th minute but Prabhjot Singh’s cross wasn’t connected by Rajpal Singh.

In the 7th minute, Pakistan took the lead off their second penalty corner. Adnan Zakir got the ball, an indirect push towards him and his slap-shot from the right hand corner beat Devesh Chauhan in goal.

Three minutes, later, Pakistan got their second when Rehan Butt broke an attack by the Indians and counter-attacked, taking the ball right into the Indian striking circle and scoring from an angle.

Two goals down, it almost seemed that a deluge was to follow but the Indians fortunately started marking the Pakistan forwards and the pace of the game slowed down.

But not enough to stop Pakistan get their third, five minutes before the break in the 30th minute. A defence lapse saw the ball going to Akhtar Ali who held his shot and waited for Devesh to commit before tapping into the corner.

The forwards though playing with pace couldn’t work in tandem with Arjun Halappa not even trapping properly. Twice the Indian senior player lost the ball which led to counter-attacks by Pakistan.

India earned their first penalty corner in the 32nd minute and after that following a skirmish in the Pakistan striking circle, Rajpal Singh was shown the yellow card.

India down to ten men defended out the time.

At the break, Pakistan led 3-0 with promises of more to come.

India playing with ten men after the break forced their second penalty corner in the 36th minute. Dilip Tirkey’s hard strike was stopped by Dilawar but not before the ball hit his foot leading to a stroke. It was a wonderful opportunity for India to come back into the match but Arjun Halappa’s flick hit the post.

Desperate India did try and slow the pace again till Rajpal Singh returned from the suspension. But after Rajpal Singh’s return, Pakistan forced three consecutive penalty corners in the 44th minute with Devesh Chauhan doing a good job of keeping them out.

A rare Indian counter-attack led to India’s third penalty corner in the 49th minute. Len’s flick rebounded off Salman Akhbar’s gloves, Dilip picking up the rebound saw his shot come off the pads but Deepak Thakur picking up the rebound shot it in.

India cut the Pakistan lead further in the 53rd minute when a rare defence error from Pakistan saw India shoot in a cross from the right with Sandeep Michael perfectly placed to edge it into goal.

Suddenly India looked charged up as Pakistan’s game deteriorated. The Indian defence till now in the tournament below par seemed to be looking up as they went for tackles and cleared the ball into safe zones.

India had two superb opportunities in the 63rd and 67th minutes, of their fourth and fifth penalty corners but Salman Akhbar came off with some great saves.

In the last couple of minutes, Pakistan held onto the ball denying India possession to walk off with a 3-2 victory and kept their unbeaten run in the tournament alive.

NZ Win

New Zealand beat hosts Malaysia 3-1 to destroy the hosts chances of finishing in the top four of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Wednesday.

New Zealand kept a tight leash on the Malaysian forwards keeping them at bay to earn seven points and move into joint third place with Korea in the standings.

New Zealand took the lead in the 2nd minute through a field goal conversion by Philips Burows.

At the break, New Zealand led 1-0.

Malaysia came back to equalise in the 42nd minute when Kuhan comverted a penalty stroke.

But New Zealand held ball possession after that, kept the midfield in check and slammed in the second and third goal in the 49th and 56th minutes through David Kosoof and Bryce Collin.

Aus Destroy SA

Olympic Champions Australia destroyed South Africa 8-3 and moved to the top of the league standings in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium

With South Korea and Pakistan chasing Australia in the league standings, the Olympic champions needed to build on their goal difference and they did in style.

Australia now have eleven points with a match to go. Pakistan are in second place 10 points while Korea are in third with seven points.

Except for a brief defensive lapse in the 11th minute, Australia completely dominated the first half.

The Aussies took the lead in the 2nd minute when Eli Matheson scored from the top of the striking circle.

South Africa fought back and in the 11th minute forced their way into the Australian striking circle and Emilie Smith converted a beautiful goal from an acute angle.

With the scores tied 1-1, the Aussies worked harder and started making deep inroads into the South African half.

In the 19th minute, Robert Hammond picked up a rebound and shot past the South African goalkeeper Chris Hibbert to give Aussies the lead.

But the in the space of four minutes, Australia scored thrice in the 25th, 26th and 29th minute. First Travis Brooks picked up a cross and edged it into goal, Jamie Dwyer shot in from top of the circle and the fifth goal of the first half came off the stick of Micheal McCann who deftly dribbled in before placing the ball past the Chris Hibbert.

At the break, Australia led 5-1.

Australia slackened speed after they came on for the second half. But South Africa also put up a good defence not allowing Australia the space that they gave away in the first half.

It was South Africa who scored off a counter-attack in the 50th minute. A cross from the right flank beat Aussie goalkeeper Stephen Mowlam but John McInroy was there to edge the shot into the Aussie goal.

Australia came back with a vengeance and got their sixth through a penalty stroke conversion by skipper Brent Livermore. Australia got two more in the next two minutes through Grant Schubert and Travis Brooks shot in a penalty corner in the 58th minute.

South Africa took advantage through a swift counter-attack and cut the lead by getting their third goal off a penalty corner as Rick Gay converted.

Australia rounded off the tally with a eighth goal when Jamie Dwyer picked up the ball on top of the South African striking circle and after drawing the goalkeeper, tapped the ball in.

India Thrashed

Asian Games champions South Korea thrashed India 4-1 to keep themselves in contention for a podium finish here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. With this win, Korea move to seven points, third in the standings behind Pakistan and Australia while India slide to sixth place in the standings though on points they are level with New Zealand and hosts Malaysia. South Africa with one point are in seventh place.

With the Indian errors coming in fast in the midfield and defence, Korea had earned five penalty corners in the first 15 minutes of the match. But helped by some good goalkeeping and rank bad flicking, India kept the scores goalless.

A brilliant Arjun Halappa-Rajpal Singh move saw Deepak Thakur trap a pass with the Korean goalkeeper in front but the lodged underneath the pads and India earned their first penalty corner in the 25th minute.

Len Aiyappa’s flick went in off Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko’s gloves for India to take the lead.

Korea would have equalised in the 28th minute when they were awarded a stroke, the first in the tournament, for a stick-check by Dilip Tirkey on a Korean forward. But Kyung Seok Kim’s flick hit the post.

India would have taken the lead in the 29th minute when a counter-attack saw Arjun-Rajpal moving in and giving the ball to Prabhjot who instead of trapping it and shooting home swiped his stick over the ball.

Korea’s equaliser came in the 32nd minute off a defensive error by Jaswinder Singh. Kyung Seok Kim made up for his lapse with the penalty stroke by picking up the sixth Korean penalty corner rebound of Devesh Chauhan’s gloves and smashing the ball home.

India had their second penalty corner in the 33rd minute but the ball wasn’t stopped cleanly.

At the break, both the teams were tied 1-1.

Taking advantage of yet another defensive Indian error, Korea took the lead in the 42nd minute when Seong Jung Kang had the entire goal at his disposal with the defence caught napping. Seong’s cracker of a shot sped past the bemused Devesh Chauhan.

Defence options running out, India fielded Muthuselvan as Harpal Singh was running a fever.

But nothing could stop the Koreans now as they were on a roll. In the 47th minute, Seong Jung Kang converted Korea’s seventh penalty corner with a direct conversion and then a brilliant midfield move saw Hyo Sik Yu get Korea’s fourth goal in the 49th minute.

India now play Pakistan on Wednesday.

Pak, Aus Draw

Pakistan dominated proceedings against Olympic champions Australia but couldn’t give the finishing touches to a match that ended 2-2 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium.

Pakistan took the lead twice to see Australia come back to equalise. Apart from the two they scored, Pakistan muffed up atleast six goal scoring chances.

Pakistan scored through Shakeel Abbasi (3rd) and Mohammad Imran (42nd). For Australia, Luke Doerner (28th) and Brent Livermore (63rd) scored.

Even with the 2-2 draw, Pakistan maintain their top position in the league tables with ten points after four matches while Australia are on eight points.

Pakistan started promisingly when a cross when Tariq Aziz found Shakeel Abbasi’s stick but the Australian goalkeeper saved brilliantly.

Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman’s tactic of throwing five forwards upfront was paying off as Pakistan dominated the midfield and also built up chances that were seriously pressurising the Aussie defence.

Pakistan took the lead in the 3rd minute when Shakeel seized the ball in the midfield and moved up giving the ball on the right flank to Rehan Butt who cut in and crossed for Shakeel to edge into goal past a charging Australian goalkeeper Stephen Lambert.

Three minutes later, the Aussie goal had a close shave when Muhammad Saqlain found Rehan Butt but the Pakistan forward fumbled with the cross giving enough time for the defence to come and clear.

Rehan was again the culprit in the 25th minute when another he fumbled with a cross from Shakeel Abbasi with only Australian goalkeeper Lambert in front.

Australia, slowly building up in the midfield through an off-colour skipper Brent Livermore finally had a shot when they earned their first penalty corner. The equaliser, however, came off the second penalty corner in the 28th minute when Luke Doerner flicked in beating Salman Akhbar in goal.

Pakistan should have been awarded another goal in the 34th minute when Imran Khan raced up the right flank and sent in a cross that was knee high and Shakeel Abbasi standing in the striking circle connected into goal. Umpire Javed Sheikh blew for dangerous play even though there was no defender between Shakeel and the Australian goalkeeper.

Pakistan had two consecutive penalty corners after the first half hooter but couldn’t break through the Aussie defence.

At the break, the scores were 1-1.

Pakistan surged into the lead in the 42nd minute when Mohammed Imran found the net with a speedy flick off Pakistan’s third penalty corner.

The lead could have been increased off the fourth penalty corner but Shakeel Abbasi couldn’t trap the rebound off an Imran flick.

Pakistan didn’t let off the attacks even though central midfielder and skipper Muhammed Saqlain was on the bench. They missed a few and also fumbled with a few chances in the Aussie striking circle.

Australia’s persistence paid off and they earned their third penalty corner in the 63rd minute. After selling a dummy to the Pakistan defence, Brent Livermore took his time and slid the ball past the Pakistan goalkeeper for the equaliser.

NZ's 1st Win

New Zealand registered their first victory here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament beating South Africa 2-0 in a league match at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Monday.

The Kiwis scored a goal in each half through Philips Burrows (10th) and Ryan Archibald (49th).

South Africa with a draw against Malaysia are still looking for their first win in the tournament.

With this win, the Kiwis now move to four points and into the fourth position pushing India to fifth on goal difference.
Korea, New Zealand, India and Malaysia are all on four points each.

Korea's Big Win

Asian Games champions South Korea crushed hosts Malaysia 4-0 in a league match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium. For Malaysia, it was a huge disappointment coming after the high of Sunday where the hosts had beaten India 4-1. Korea, on the other hand, needed a win to remain in contention for a place in the final which they accomplished quite easily.

For Korea, all the four goals came in the second half with Jong Hyun Jang scoring twice off penalty corners (43rd, 47th) and Eun Seong Hong and Jong Ho Seo adding two more through field goals. Korea now join Malaysia and India with four points but Korea are in third place with a better goal average with India in fourth and Malaysia fifth.

Remarkably, it was Malaysia who started strongly with a commanding presence in the midfield where even skipper and full back S Kuhan moved in to release some brilliant through passes.

However, the first two strikes at penalty corners went Korea’s way which were saved by the Malaysian defence.
Malaysia came close in the 6th minute when a superb run by Mohd Rodzhanizam saw the ball being released to Azlan Misron whose tap goalwards was saved by a diving Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko.

Korea and Malaysia earned another two penalty corners each in the first half.

At the break, both the teams were tied goalless.

After the break, it was Korea who came out of their shell, throwing five forwards and increasing the pressure on the Malaysian defence. As Korea expected, the Malaysians cracked under the pressure and after keeping them out for eight minutes, Malaysia succumbed letting in the goal off a brilliant low flick by Jong Hyun Jang.

Confidence high after taking the lead, Korea increased the pace of the game even though they were ten on the field with play-maker Seong Jung Kang sitting out with a yellow card.

Jong got his second goal and Korea’s too with another penalty corner flick that was low and fast to Malaysian goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin’s right.

By now Malaysia were running all over the place trying to keep the marauding Koreans at bay.

Korea’s third goal came in the 53rd minute after a Malaysian defence mix-up saw the ball trickling down to Eun Seong Hong who shot it past the Malaysian goalkeeper.

Korea earned their 11th penalty corner a minute later, 7th off the second half, a fact that underlines their domination in the second half.

Just when Malaysia thought that Korea would relent in their constant attacks, Korea managed another move through the midfield, cut into the Malaysian defence with Jong Ho Seo’s shot right on target.

Korea now play India on Tuesday.

Australia Win

Olympic champions Australia beat New Zealand 2-1 but not before the Kiwis had them struggle all the way in their league match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium.

For Australia, the goals came through skipper Brent Livermore, off a penalty corner in the 58th minute and Grant Schubert in the 66th minute. The Kiwis got a consolation goal with just 21 seconds left when David Kosoof scored.

Both the goals came in the second half.

Australia now have seven points after three matches while the Kiwis are at the bottom of the table with South Africa with one point.

It was a classic midfield struggle in the first half with both the teams trying to find space to create the moves. Both the teams had their chances but it was Australia who managed to find the goals, though at the fag end of the match.
With just 21 seconds left, New Zealand fired in a consolation goal with David Kosoof on target.

Pak Bt SA

Former world champions Pakistan moved to the top of the points table here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament after an easy 2-0 victory over South Africa on Sunday.

Pakistan with the victory against South Africa have an all-win record and are on nine points. South Africa with one point are at the bottom of the table.

Pakistan didn’t exert much and with their captain Muhammad Saqlain suspended for the match against SA, last Azlan Shah tournament’s runners-up were content to keep ball possession.

After some close calls on the South African goal, Pakistan opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Shakeel Abbasi in his customary style weaved in and pushed it past the South African goalkeeper Chris Hibbert.

Pakistan added another in the 30th minute when outside-right Rehan Butt trapped a cross from the left and after side-stepping a defender shot in for Pakistan to take a 2-0 lead.

At the break, Pakistan led 2-0.

South Africa pushed the Pakistan defence in the second half and did earn two penalty corners but Salman Akhbar saved twice.

Pakistan now take on Olympic Champions Australia in a keenly contested tie on Tuesday night.

Easy For Pak

By Sundeep Misra

Depressed and disappointed would be extremely mild words to use for the Indian team after the 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Malaysia here at the Bukit Jalil stadium in the 2005 Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament on Sunday. If one were to just look at the level of play against Malaysia, there was a complete lack of passion, especially in the second half.

A 1-1 first half score line pointed towards a pacy and competitive second half but as Indian coach Rajinder Singh junior said, “You expect your senior players to for the balls, fall back and tackle the opponents. But when that doesn’t happen, are you left with any alternative?”

It was a crestfallen Rajinder Singh and the disappointment in manager and former Indian goalkeeper Romeo James words couldn’t be hidden too. “The second Malaysian goal was a soft one,” he explained. “We need to tighten things up.”

Robert Alcantara, the Malaysian forward, however, didn’t have much to worry about when he started his run into the Indian striking circle in the 49th minute. Deftly avoiding two defenders, he entered the circle, cut to the right and let loose an uppish shot that went past Devesh Chauhan, who for some wild reason was rooted to the spot. It was at that moment that Malaysia realised that India could be beaten today and that too by a wide margin.

Malaysian captain S Kuhan, later said, “Rarely do you get days when you can shut down the Indian midfield and today, we did just that. Roberts goal told us that the Indians were not moving and we passed on the message to the forwards to pile on the pressure and go for penalty corners.”

The message was well received by the Malaysian frontline and in the 53rd and 63rd minutes, Malaysia slammed in another two goals (Muhammad Amin and Kuhan) through penalty corners.

By then, India had given it up and were content to keep the ball in the midfield and not try and move up. Bimal Lakra played for most part of the match but still couldn’t cover the space between the Indian midfield and the Malaysian striking circle. Former Indian coach V Bhaskaran, watching the match from the press box said, “We need to move up. I don’t know why we are always passing the ball parallel. Bimal needs to attack otherwise there will be no pressure build-up.”

In an otherwise inept display, Prabhjot Singh, on the left flank, seemed to fight for every ball. The Indian forward was among the few who today decided to give his all.

Both Rajinder and Romeo James have promised a come back but looking at the quality of opposition in the remaining matches, South Korea, Pakistan and Australia, it does seem that the cloud of depression hanging thick over the Indian team might just get prolonged a bit.

Disappointed Rajinder

Indian coach Rajinder Singh junior blamed the lack of fighting spirit in the senior players for the 1-4 defeat against hosts Malaysia here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.

“What can you do when the senior players themselves don’t want to fall back and go for tackles,” said a crestfallen Rajinder Singh. “Worse, I can’t even substitute the players as there is no bench strength and the others are not even completely fit.”

India’s play today lacked bite and after Malaysia had scored their second goal to take the lead, the Indians appeared to have given up on the match.

“I won’t put it that harshly,” said Rajinder. “But, yes, it would have changed the course of the match if they went for the balls instead of allowing the Malaysians to build up the attacks.”

Indian team manager and former Indian goalkeeper Romeo James said, “The second goal was a soft one”, but when questioned that Devesh after a good first game has been letting in soft goals, Romeo said, “We need to talk to him and he would need to pull up his socks in the remaining matches.”

Rajinder was very concerned about the attitude of some senior players though he refused to name them. “If the seniors refuse to step up the pressure, then what can I say to the juniors? The seniors show the way and that didn’t happen in today’s match.”

The Indian coach also questioned the fitness and said that the Premier Hockey League and the National Championships had taken a lot out of the players. “Some of them are not even fifty percent fit but we still have to play with them as there are no replacements,” he explained. “But I will have a team meeting today and I do believe that they would pick themselves up and get ready for the next match against South Korea on Tuesday.”

India now play South Korea on Tuesday and will have to go for a win if they have to remain in contention for a place in the final or a top three finish in the tournament.

India Routed

By Sundeep Misra

Hosts Malaysia demolished three-times Azlan Shah winners India 4-1 in a league match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

After the first half had ended on equal terms 1-1, Malaysia broke off the shackles to score thrice in the 49th, 53rd and 63rd minutes to record their biggest victory in recent years.

With this win, Malaysia move to four points in three matches with India also on four points after three matches. India now play Pakistan, Australia and South Korea in the remaining matches.

Malaysia, today, fired in three penalty corners out of the four that they earned with their skipper S Kuhan accounting for two of them.

The other two goals were scored by Robert Alcantara and Muhammad Amin.

For India the only goal was scored by skipper Dilip Tirkey in the 8th minute.

Both the teams began the match knowing the importance of the tie as far as picking three points goes but were overly defensive in the first half.

Defensive attitude was seen in the play of Bimal Lakra who after being introduced, ten minutes into the game, never ventured over the 25yard line.

What ever the attacks came from both the teams were concentrated on the flanks. For India Prabhjot Singh was the sole forward creating chances and coming close to scoring from them. Deepak Thakur was a complete passenger and through the first half couldn’t clearly dodge even one defender, leave alone setting up a move.

But it was Malaysia who made the first move in the 5th minute earning their first penalty corner but the shot hit Indian defender Harpal Singh on the leg and on the second consecutive penalty corner in the 6th minute, Malaysian captain S Kuhan flicked it high past Devesh Chauhan in the Indian goal.

Two minutes later, it was the turn of the Indian captain who strode up for India’s first penalty corner in the 8th minute and Dilip Tirkey’s direct hit equalised the scores at 1-1.

For almost ten minutes, the match was restricted to the midfield as both the teams tried making some headway.
It was only in the 19th minute that India earned their second penalty corner but Dilip’s shot just missed the right post.

Malaysian right half Jiwa Mohan was sent off for dangerous play with a yellow card and even though the hosts were down to ten men for almost six minutes, India couldn’t put pressure to get the lead before the break.

With only Prabhjot providing some through passes and also trying to break through the Malaysian striking circle, it was an uphill task for India.

Malaysia had a couple of attacks in the end of the first half but some smart defending from Harpal and Dilip Tirkey kept the Malaysians at bay.

At the break, the scores were level at 1-1.

Malaysia broke the deadlock in the 49th minute through a brilliant goal by Robert Alcantara who after trapping the ball just outside the Indian striking circle, sped in, moved to his right and celebrated seeing his uppish shot beating Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, who was clearly slow in his reflexes.

Nothing worked for India and even in the second half, it was Prabhjot Singh who worked tirelessly while the others just didn’t show any heart for a fight.

Malaysia scored their third in the 53rd minute off their third penalty corner when Kuhan tapped it for Muhammad Amin to beat Devesh in goal.

Ten minutes later came the fourth goal that shattered whatever thoughts the Indians had off staging a comeback. Kuhan, who was on a roll, saw his flick enter the corner, eating goalkeeper Devesh.

India had an opportunity in the last minute for a second goal but Len’s attempt was way off the mark.

For the Indians it is an uphill task now to qualify for the final as they have to beat Pakistan, South Korea and Australia and the form that they showed today, it does seem an impossible task.

Pak capt suspended

Pakistan captain Muhammad Saqlain was suspended for one match by the tournament director Frank van't Hek at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here on Saturday. Saqlain had struck the Korean forward Sung Hoon Yoon in the face during the match against South Korea while the game was in play and the Korean player was on the ball.

Sung Hoon had to be stretchered off the off the field. The umpires at that moment had not shown Saqlain any card. But after the match, the Koreans had protested and the the video was seen, the tournament director decided to give a red card to the Pakistan captain.

In the statement to the team managers, the TD, explained that the captain of the team should set an example to his teammates and should strictly follow a code of conduct.

Muhammad Saqlain will now have to miss the match against South Africa today.

Pak Beat Korea


Pakistan 3 South Korea 2
(At the break, Pak led 3-1).

In a fast-paced encounter, Pakistan beat Asian Games Champions South Korea 3-2 to move to the top of the league standings at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Saturday. Pakistan now have six points with Korea on one point.

Pakistan took a 3-1 lead in the first half through Mohammed Imran (1st min), Shakeel Abbasi (14th) and Akhtar Ali (30th). Korea scored through Seong Jung Kang (13th) and in the second half through Jong Hyun Jang (41st)

It was attacking hockey at its best. Switching positions upfront faster than the Koreans could guess, the midfield cutting off all the through balls that the Koreans could come up with and the defence putting in a stellar performance, Pakistan, simply put, had a perfect first half.

They went ahead in the first minute when Mohammed Imran, off Pakistan’s first penalty corner flicked in powerfully.
Korea tried their best to come back into the match but the Pakistan midfield, superbly marshalled by captain Mohammed Saqlain, didn’t let in any through passes.

It was a move from the right flank that landed on the feet of a Pakistan defender resulting in a penalty corner that gave Korea their equaliser in the 13th minute – Seong Jung Kang got the ball after a dummy had been played for the Pakistan defence and his flick sped in beating Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akhbar.

A minute later, a harried Korean defence couldn’t trap a ball cleanly outside the circle and it was picked up by Tariq Aziz who moved in and gave a perfect cross to Shakeel Abbasi who connected perfectly into goal for Pakistan’s lead.

Pakistan would have got their third in the 27th minute but Mohammed Imran’s flick was saved brilliantly by Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko.

It was a brilliant individual move that earned Pakistan their third goal in the 30th minute. An error by a Korean midfielder and Akhtar Ali picked up the ball and raced through two defenders, drew the goalkeeper to the top of the circle, cut in superbly and placed the ball into an empty goal.

With the score at 3-1, Korea held possession and did make a couple of moves but the Pakistan defence stood firm.
At the break, Pakistan led 3-1.

In the second half, it was a question of whether Pakistan would last the pace against a Korean attack that would go all out to draw level.

But it was apparent that the match against Australia on Friday had drained away Korean energies. They did throw in four forwards with a midfield that continued to push up but Pakistan held off the attacks.

After a penalty corner was saved by Salman Akhbar in the 39th minute, Korea found the target in the 41st when Jong Hyun Jang slotted in a low flick that beat Pakistan goalkeeper Salman.

Akhtar Ali was shown a yellow card for a back stick foul but Pakistan down to ten men didn’t yield at the back.

As the minutes ticked away, Korea piled on the pressure, at times, attacking with five forwards to get the equaliser but somehow couldn’t tap in the crosses and even at times in a one-to-one situation with the goalkeeper Salman, couldn’t put the ball past him.

Pakistan had a couple of counter-attacks but Shakeel Abassi, the lone man upfront couldn’t get through the Korean defence.

With time running out, Pakistan had a well-earned victory which would definitely boost their confidence ahead of their matches against South Africa and India.

Malaysia Held

Hosts Malaysia were losing 0-1 against South Africa but came back with a stellar performance in the second half to hold the South Africans to a 1-1 draw.

Both the teams had equal opportunities to score but it was South Africa who drew first blood when Justin King hammered in a penalty corner in the 15th minute.

Malaysia fought back but poor finishing in the circle prevented them equalising in the first half.

In the second half, Malaysia threw an extra forward upfront as South Africa back-pedalled. The equaliser, finally, came in the 52nd minute when Prabhakaran Periathamby pulled in the ball from outside the circle, side stepped the defender and shot home.

South Africa now have one point from two games with Malaysia also on one point from two games.

Hosts Malaysia now play a crucial match against India on Sunday.

Australia Held

Australia 3 South Korea 3
Korea led 1-0 at the break)

Olympic and reigning Azlan Shah Champions Australia survived a scare against the 2000 Olympic silver medallists South Korea before fighting back from 0-2 down, taking a 3-2 lead and then having Korea equalise 3-3 in the last minute in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Friday.

South Korea who were playing their first match in the tournament led 1-0 in the 19th minute when Eun Seong Hong scored from a field attempt.

At the break, Korea led 1-0.

Korea dominated the initial proceedings in the second half coming up with a second goal in the 38th minute when Eun again managed a scoring position in the Aussie striking circle to hammer in the second goal.

Australia fought back, seizing control in the midfield, and converted a penalty corner in the 52nd minute to cut the lead as Luke Doerner flicked in.

With seven minutes left, Australia equalised as Michael McCann flashed in a field goal.

Three minutes left and Jamie Dwyer did the star turn by smashing in a field goal that gave Australia the lead. It was a superb fightback as Australia went into defence.

South Korea pressed hard for the equaliser and got it in the last minute when Hyo Sik You trapped inside the striking circle and struck home.

Australia now have four points from two games while Korea have one point.

India Fight Back

Two goals down, India fought back in the second half to walk off with a 2-2 draw against New Zealand in their second match of the 2005 Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Friday.

After two matches, India now have four points from two matches while New Zealand have one after having lost their opening game on Thursday to Pakistan.

After a listless display in the first half, when the Kiwis went ahead 2-0 up through goals from Darren Smith (22nd) and Bevan Hari (25th), India came back and a smart substitution in the shape of Bimal Lakra energised the midfield with a free flow of attacking moves coming.

India scored twice in the second half through Rajpal Singh (44th) and Prabhjot Singh (63rd).

After only one penalty corner in the first half, India had seven in the second half but could score off only one and that too indirectly.

Indian coach Rajinder Singh said that the Kiwis man-to-man marking couldn’t give them the space to create and it was only in the second half that they managed to throw the markers off. “But I do believe that the team played well and if we had capitalised on the 3-4 chances we had, we would have had a equal first half too.”

Indian manager and former India goalkeeper Romeo James felt that with the induction of Bimal Lakra, there was more attempt at creating and that paid off well in the second half.

When asked about the Kiwi goals in the first half, Romeo said, “I think both were soft goals and Devesh in the first had a defender in front, so thought that the ball would be cleared but the shot went high. And in the second, it was a mistake again as the defence came in front of the goalkeeper again.”

With the entire second half being played in the Kiwi half, India should have clinched the match, given the amount of opportunities they had.

But it was a different India in the first half that everyone saw – Defensive and and not willing to move up to create chances.

New Zealand, on the other hand, waited for the mistakes in the midfield and hung onto create the moves and get the goals.

With an off-colour Sandeep Michael, things were difficult for India upfront where Prabhjot seemed to be the lone ranger. Two sharp chances were created by him and both the times, the Kiwi goalkeeper was alert to glove away the shots.

India were the first to earn a penalty corner in the 12th minute. Len’s flick was saved by Paul Woolford and the rebound was then saved on the line by Bryce Collin.

Two minutes later, Prabhjot sped down the left flank and after drawing the defence out gave the ball to Arjun Halappa who had overlapped up. But Arjuns’s goal-bound flick was saved by goalkeeper Woolford.

In the 22nd minute, against the run of play, the kiwis broke in the midfield and entered the Indian striking circle. But with three defenders inside, Darren Smith took a uppish shot that beat Devesh Chauhan in goal.

There was a distinct lack of energy in the Indian midfield to create moves even with a goal down. The Kiwis again took advantage of a slip-up in the centre, snatched the ball, moved upfront and with Bevan Hari, inside the circle, shot to the corner that beat Devesh, yet again.

After a brilliant performance under the bar against South Africa, Devesh, definitely looked under the weather.

Two goals down, coach Rajinder Jr came off the bench and gave instructions standing on the touchline but even then there was a general reluctance to go for tackles.

Rajpal Singh who had disappointed through the first half had a crack at goal but his first timer was saved by Woolford.

As the first half ended, the only difference was that the Kiwis did stretch the Indian defence while India played down the middle making things a little easier for the Kiwi defence.

At the break, New Zealand led 2-0.

Obviously, a pep talk had been delivered as the Indians came out with sticks blazing. Between the second half start and 47th minute, 12 minutes, India had earned six penalty corners. But it was a field goal that cut the lead for the Indians. A yellow card had been given to New Zealand’s Dean Couzins and the resultant free hit was inside the Kiwi striking circle with Woolford coming out to take it on his pads. But the ball slipped off the pads with Rajpal Singh picking it up and sending it into goal in the 44th minute.

In the 47th minute, India came close to equalising when Len off the fifth penalty corner send the ball to Deepak Thakur whose slap-shot just went off the from outside the post.

The equaliser finally came in the 63rd minute when India earned their 8th penalty corner. Len sold a dummy and slipped the ball to Dilip Tirkey who gave it to Prabhjot Singh on the left. The flick to the extreme right corner saw the ball go in for India’s equaliser.

With only a minute to go, India would have snatched the match-winner but Prabhjot with only the goalkeeper in front tried a back tap with the ball going by the side the left post.

Aussies Breeze Away

Olympic and reigning Azlan Shah Champions Australia were off to a breezy start to their 2005 Azlan Shah campaign beating hosts Malaysia 3-1 in the day’s last engagement at the Bukit Jalil stadium here on Thursday.

In the other matches of the day, last year’s runners-up Pakistan struggled to put it past New Zealand 2-1 while three-times Azlan Shah Champions India fired in a last minute match-winner off the stick of Len Aiyappa to beat South Africa 2-1.

All the goals were off penalty corners with Travis Brooks (2) and Rob Hammond finding the goal for Australia while Malaysia got a consolation goal through Chua Boon Huat off a penalty corner.

The Australian goals came in the 8th, 19th and 25th minutes, all conversions in the first half while Malaysia got a late goal in the 62nd minute when Chua Boon Huat managed to score past the Australian defence.

Pak Struggle

Former World Champions and 2004 Azlan Shah runners-up, Pakistan struggled to beat New Zealand 2-1 in their opening match of the 2005 Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here in Kuala Lumpur.

Coach Tahir Zaman had lined up seven juniors in the Pakistan line-up and the inexperience showed in the early stages. But captain Mohammed Saqlain held them together in the midfield to grind out a 2-1 victory and essentially gain three points in their very first match.

Tahir admitted that the three points were crucial and not the manner of victory. “The boys are young and will take some time,” he said. “But I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves and I think we will speak to them when we review the match.”

Pakistan took the lead in a somewhat slow paced battle when Adnan Zakir slotted in a field goal in the 15th minute.
But a defensive error just outside the Pakistan striking circle gave New Zealand a chance when they won a penalty corner in the 22nd minute. The Kiwis didn’t blow it away and coolly flicked home with Geredh Brooks on target.

Three minutes before the break, Mohammed Imran, another penalty corner specialist coming up the junior ranks, fired home a scorcher to give Pakistan the lead.

Pakistan had their chances and would have increased it but Imran Warsi, tipped to be Sohail Abbasss successor saw his flick coming off the upright.

New Zealand coach Kevin Towns was disappointed with the show and said too many mistakes gave Pakistan the advantage and the breaks. “But we would come back into the tournament,” he said.

Looking ahead to the match with India on Friday, Kevin said,”Off late we have been having a bit of luck against India and even in Athens we won a close match so I hope that the boys would concentrate and play a better and consistent game.”

Luck With Us

India were lucky against South Africa was how Indian coach Rajinder Singh junior summed up India’s performance in their first outing in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.

“I think we were lucky in the second half when they attacked with almost four-five forwards but somehow we survived and got in the match winner through Len Aiyappa,”said Rajinder.

The Indian coach seemed a little tense in his first international press conference but answered with a remarkable amount of honesty.

Asked to judge the Indian performance on the day, he said, “I think we all saw what the performance was. But I would say that the boys are not experienced and without a powerful midfield, I couldn’t press completely through the match.”

When asked that even the South African coach Paul Revington was surprised with our strategy, Rajinder said, “What he said was correct but there was little we could do. I couldn’t throw people into the attack as the back was weakened. But today’s win would give the team confidence and build up morale and hopefully, the team would improve and try and do well in the rest of the matches.”

Though, India beat South Africa 2-1, an injury on the thumb has put a doubt on Inderjit Chadha strarting the other matches. “He split his thumb and needed 3-4 stitches and we will only know tomnorrow how he shapes up.”

Rajinder admitted that without Inderjit who was a key link in the midfield and forwardline, India would suffer. But at the same time admitted that the team would rise to the occasion and play hard.

But he was very satisfied with Len and Devesh Chauhan’s display. “I think Len delivered and that is what we had hoped from him. Devesh was equally brilliant and though I would say that game plan may have suffered now and then in the match, we still held our own and came away victorious.”

Rajinder now hopes that India would play a level higher against New Zealand and win it’s next game to steam ahead with six points in the tournament.

Len is The Hero

If there was a savior for India, it was Len Aiyappa whose last minute penalty corner conversion today saved India heavy duty embarrassment as the three-time Azlan Shah winners carved out a narrow 2-1 victory over South Africa in their opening match of the tournament here in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Earlier in the match, in the second half, it was Len who had given India the lead in the 46th minute before SA equalised in the 49th minute.

South Africa seemed set to wrap up the match when they won a penalty corner in the 68th minute but Devesh Chauhan was agile enough to block the shot and then glove the rebound away. If Len Aiyappa showed the way through his penalty corner conversions, it was Devesh Chauhan who along with captain Dilip Tirkey shone in defence. On the same scale, the rest of the team was a disappointment.

For Indian coach Rajinder Singh Junior, it would have been a personal disappointment seeing the Indians perform but he would still be glad that his international debut as coach was a winning one and crucially yielded three points for his side.

South Africa would be a sad lot after the slew of chances that they created in the second half. Only luck and Devesh Chauhan stood in their way.

South African coach was surprised with the way India played and said, “We expected them to play quality hockey and we took advantage of that. I think we should have won but then that’s hockey.”

Revington was also critical of the fact that India took 55 seconds for their last penalty corner and described that as “something that should never happen and that someone should do something about it.”

But it is no going away from the fact that India were defensive on a day when a little enterprise would have won them the day easily.

India surprisingly started defensively. Upfront were Sandeep Michael, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh but by the time the first half was midway, Prabhjot was already playing as a withdrawn forward.

In the midfield were Arjun Halappa, Inderjit Chadha, Ignace Tirkey and Bimal Lakra. But the pace came only from Arjun who sporadically overlapped to beat the South Africans defenders to create some sharp chances.

South Africa’s thrust mainly came from two players Craig Fulton and Lungile Tsolekile who stretched the Indian defence where again captain and full back Dilip Tirkey played a stellar role.

Spread thin upfront, India couldn’t build on the attacks as the South Africans realised that India were in a defensive posture and thus came on the attack to cut away the crosses in the midfield. And neither did India stretch the flanks. Rajpal Singh came on midway and tried to make headway on the right flank but was lacking in speed and accuracy in his crosses.

India were rather lucky not have to conceded a goal in the 24th minute when off a loose ball Lungile hit towards an empty Indian goal as Devesh had slipped on the charge but Len Aiyappa on the goalline made a smart save. The resultant penalty corner was saved by Devesh Chauhan. Earlier, in the 20th minute, Devesh Chauhan had charged out to smartly save a penalty corner flick by Justin King.

In the first half, South Africa had two penalty corners with none showing for India.

India’s best chance came in the dying seconds of the first half when Deepak Thakur trapped a ball on the half line and sped away into the South African striking circle. Seeing a speeding Prabhjot Singh enter the circle, he tapped it to him but Prabhjot Singh’s shot whizzed inches past the post.

The second half was South Africa’s in the way that they seized the midfield and held sway with only Dilip Tirkey and Devesh Chauhan standing out for India.

Len Aiyappa may have had an average day in his field play but today he was quite savage with his flicks. In the 39th minute, India would have taken the lead but the fiery Len flick was smartly saved by Chris Hibbert. With only three and sometimes two forwards upfront, it was easy for the SA defence to shut the Indian forwards out of the game.

India took the lead in the 46th minute when Len’s low flick beat Hibbert who came out expecting a full-blooded high into the net flick.

But three minutes later, off a Jaswinder mistake in clearing the ball, South Africa earned their third penalty corner which was brilliantly saved by Devesh but the rebound was equally brilliantly shot in by Clyde Abrahams.

With the scoreline tied at 1-1, it was SA who were the more aggressive. After wasting a number of chances, it was India who finally prevailed when Len fired in his second successful flick off three attempts in the match.

Azlan on ESPN

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament will be telecast live outside of Malaysia for the first time.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) announced yesterday a four-year tie up with ESPN Star Sports, who are India's leading sports network, as the host broadcasters of the tournament.

The network have agreed to telecast live 23 of the 24 matches, which begin tomorrow at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil here.

The MHF deputy president, Datuk Seri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor, said that they were pleased that the tournament would grow its popularity and draw greater support from outside Malaysia.

“For the moment, India will have the live telecasts but the MHF are hopeful that other television stations will take up the offer to show the matches live in other countries,” he said.

“After a long time, we have secured host broadcasters. It is the first step in what could be a major breakthrough for the tournament to become a globally accepted event.”

The first live match to India will be the one between Pakistan and New Zealand on Thursday (4.05pm). For India, the big draw is their match against Pakistan on June 1.

The ESPN STAR Sports managing director, R. C. Venkateish, said that they were delighted to have picked up the broadcasting rights for the prestigious Sultan Azlan tournament.

“This is a major hockey tournament for our viewers. We will continue to add value to our coverage as we have done for cricket,” said Venkateish.

Meanwhile, tickets for the tournament have been priced at RM10 and RM5.

But schoolchildren get free admission into the stadium.

Confident Rajinder Jr

As the sun beats down on the astro-turf at the Bukit Jalil stadium, Indian coach Rajinder Singh Junior is keeping an eye on his forwards as they train. But instructions are being hurled at penalty corner specialist Len Aiyappa as he fires in flick after flick. Knowing that a depleted midfield would seriously undermine India’s Azlan Shah campaign, Rajinder is using his two trump cards, the forwardline and Len’s penalty corner specialisation to be able to make some headway in a tournament that would enable him to make a mark as coach.

“I know we will have to keep our options open in the midfield as we two players short because of injury,” explained Rajinder. “But at the same time I am very confident of the forward line to deliver the goods. Most of them are seasoned players like Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh and Sandeep Michael. Importantly, they have played at the same venue a number of times.”

Rajinder was not too forthcoming on strategy and tactics looking at the first match against South Africa. “I think all the teams are experienced and each team will play according to the requirements of that day and team. Of course, each of us have come to win and that’s what we will go for,” said the coach, who would be making his international debut on Thursday.

Speaking about the penalty corners, Rajinder said that Len Aiyappa was a seasoned campaigner and “had played in the Malaysian league for a number of years.” “I think the entire team would be looking to him to deliver the goods,” said Rajinder. “That’s where the experience of the forwards would come in. If they are able to win penalty corners, we have Len Aiyappa and captain Dilip Tirkey as penalty corner experts.”

Rajinder wasn’t too concerned with the weather conditions and said that the same conditions prevailed in Hyderabad where the team trained with the juniors before flying out to Kuala Lumpur.

India open their campaign in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament against South Africa on Thursday.





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