Holland Are Azlan Champs

Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey
June 25, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

Holland 6 Australia 2

Holland whipped Olympic Champions Australia 6-2 to clinch their first Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey title here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

A shocked Australian defence had no answer to the fluency of the Dutch forward line who struck twice in the first half and then a further four goals in the second session.

For Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans it was a second Azlan Shah final. In 2003, he took the Pakistan team to the final but lost to Australia. It was sweet revenge for him to have beaten Australia as coach of the Dutch team.

Defending champions and Olympic champions Australia came into the final quite confident of securing the title but were beaten by a superior team.

The scorers for Hoalland were Roderick Weustoph (7th, 47th, 66th), Taeke Taekema (23rd), Teun de Nooijer (42nd), and Ronald Brouwer (52nd).

For Australia, Matt Naylor (60th) and Grant Schubert (68th) scored.

Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans said that it is not everyday one can beat the Aussie side by half a dozen goals. “But we are still clear that our objective was not to win the tournament but to keep improving and look at the World Cup in September,” he said. “It is a bonus of sorts that we have won and quite convincingly.”

Oltmans also said that Australia did miss quite a few chances in the second half and maybe things could have been different if they had scored. “But I am happy with the way my forward line created chances and we now look forward to the World Cup.”

A lot of credit should go to Teun de Nooijer who added a lot of sharpness in the Dutch frontline creating some superb chances in the Australian striking circle. Teun de Nooijer was voted the man-of-the final.

For Holland it was a triple delight at the Azlan Shah finals. Apart from convincingly beating Australia, they also took the man of the tournament which went to Roderick Weustoph. The Dutch striker also bagged the award for highest goal scorer in the tournament with four goals.


Bhaskaran Needs A Fit Gagan
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 25, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

Indian coach V Bhaskaran was delighted with the teams third place finish though he did say that a lot more needs to be planned and put into place for the September World Cup.

Speaking about the players, he said he was happy with the performance but wanted Gagan Ajit Singh to improve his fitness and get that hunger back for goals. "I don't think he needs to worry about his present form," said Bhaskaran. "He needs to put in more effort and should be fitter for the upcoming matches."

Bhaskaran also said that he is a destroyer and if he keeps training and putting his mind on the job, he would make a comeback as far as his goal scoring prowess is concerned.

Gagan has scored twice in the Azlan Shah but his performance as a goal poacher has disappointed many of his fans. At present playing in the Dutch league, Gagan has appeared slow here at the Azlan Shah and even has not been getting into the right positions to recieve the ball from the midfield.

India Clinch Bronze
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey
June 25, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

India 3 New Zealand 2

By Sundeep Misra

Hari Prasad’s double strike helped India beat New Zealand 3-2 to finish with a much needed bronze medal here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Sunday.

Hari Prasad scored in the 8th and 34th minute. The winning goal was scored by penalty flicker Sandeep Singh in the 42nd minute. New Zealand who took the lead in the 7th minute through Simon Child got a second goal in the 39th minute when Hayden Shaw flicked in a penalty corner.

The victory over New Zealand also gave India their first medal at the Azlan Shah in six years. The last time India finished on the podium was a bronze medal in 2000. Incidentally, the coach then was also Bhaskaran.

Indian coach Bhaskaran was delighted that the team would be on the podium. “We had set some targets and I am happy that we could accomplish them,” he said. “We would have been very happy playing the final but from the team points of view it has been a good comeback.”

Bhaskaran also said that he wasn’t too worried when the forwards were missing goals. “I was looking at the penalty corners also and our confidence in Sandeep Singh delivering is very high and I am glad that he could score the match-winner.”

Bhaskaran also praised the Indian goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza who he felt was back after losing his form during the Chennai Champions Trophy. “I think he had a great game and I am very happy for him as that solves a few worries we had in the goalkeeping department.”

India, however, could have really whipped the Kiwis by a larger margin but for some atrocious finishing by the forwards. The momentum could have been established in the 6th minute itself when Arjun Halappa cut into the circle and his shot beat the Kiwi goalkeeper but the goal was disallowed by umpire Jung Min Jang of South Korea.
Even as the Indian players were recovering from the shock of the disallowed goal, the Kiwis took the opportunity and hit back with a counter-attack that resulted in Simon Child scoring from an acute angle. Against the run of play, New Zealand led 1-0.

India fought back with some good runs in the midfield. Hari Prasad trapped a ball just inside the half-line and ran through the Kiwi defence, his shot beating Kyle Pontifex in the New Zealand goal. With the scores at 1-1 within the minute, India was threatening to take charge.

But the finishing disappointed the sparse crowd that was cheering on the Indian team.

Shivender Singh was the pick of the Indian forwards but even though he had chances galore; his finishing inside the Kiwi circle was not up to international level.

Thrice in the first half, alone and in combination, Shivender’s moves cut through the Kiwi defence. Once with Gagan and again with Tejbir the last touches were not perfect and once Shivender went in alone and faced with the goalkeeper tried to flick the ball over him but ended up sending it over the touchline.

The lead came to India off a brilliant free hit by Vikram Pillay. The midfielders shot zipped into the Kiwi striking circle and Hari Prasad was on target with his deflection.

At the break, India led 2-1.

India’s first penalty corner came in the 37th minute but Sandeep’s flick was saved by Kyle. The rebound could still have been shot in but Arjun failed to make a clean trap.

New Zealand went for the counter-attack and Adrian D’Souza made two brilliant saves in succession. He then kept out a Hayden Shaw penalty corner but couldn’t save the second penalty corner as Shaw’s flick went very low. With the scores tied at 2-2, it was worrying time for India.

But the midfield still pushed and with Shivender, Tejbir and Tushar Khandekar managed to create chances upfront.
Two successive penalty corner flicks were earned for India and off the second and the third of the match; Sandeep Singh flicked high to beat Kyle the Kiwi goalkeeper. India led 3-2 and promised more.

The lead would have been increased when Prabodh Tirkey put Shivender through and the Mumbai lads cross went an inch past Hari Prasad’s outstretched stick.

With the minutes ticking away, New Zealand pushed hard from the right flank and earned a penalty corner but Adrian D’Souza was in brilliant form. Richard Petherick’s flick seemed to be headed goalwards but with a dive, Adrian managed to glove it away to safety.

Adrian again came to the rescue with just five minutes left when a Bevan Hari shot was sent over the touchline by a diving Adrian D’Souza.

Pakistan Hammer Korea
Azlan Shah Hockey

June 24, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

Pakistan 4 South Korea 1

Stung by the fact that they couldn’t make it to the semis, Pakistan hammered Asian Games champions South Korea 4-1 in the play-off match for the 5th-6th positions at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday. Pakistan thus finish in fifth position and now will gear up to play the upcoming Champions Trophy in Terrasa, Spain.

Pakistan scored two goals in each half with Korea’s strike coming in the 42nd minute.

For Pakistan the scorers were Shakeel Abbasi (15th), Muhammad Saqlain converted a stroke in the 23rd minute, Akhtar Ali (46th) and Waqas Sharif (63rd).

Korea’s only goal came off a penalty corner when Seong Jung Kang struck in the 42nd minute.

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa, though disappointed after having to play the minor positions said that the team would get over the disappointment and focus on the Champions Trophy ahead. “My target is to get the team ready and focused for the World Cup and that is what are long term plan is. As a team we would have been happy if we had gone further in the Azlan Shah.”

The Koreans were still trying to come to terms with sudden slide in form after beating Olympic Champions Australia 3-0.

Cho Myung Jun, the Korean coach, said that the team would reassemble in a weeks time for the training schedules for the September World Cup. “I know we have a good team but we also need to find out why did we suddenly lose our touch and finish after beating Australia so convincingly.”

Golden Goal Win For Arg
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 24, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

Argentina 3 Malaysia 2

Malaysia threw away a two goal lead allowing Argentina to stage a comeback and clinch the 7th-8th play-off match 3-2 here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Saturday.

Hosts Malaysia took a 2-0 lead through field attempts by Chua Boon Huat (20th) and Muhammad Rahim (27th).

With three minutes left for the break, Argentina cut the deficit through Matias Pardes. Mario Almada struck a field goal in the 49th minute and then after the teams had tied 2-2 at regulation period, Innocente Argento struck a golden goal in the 79th minute.

For Argentina, it was another step towards a better performance at the forthcoming World Cup. Coach Sergio Vigil pointed to the fact that Argentina was improving with every match and at the Champions Trophy they would try and finish in the top four. “It was tough to come down after a 0-2 deficit,” Sergio said. “But the boys were confident and knew that they would get the goals. Of course, Malaysia also played well and wasted a few chances and we were lucky to strike with a golden goal.”

Malaysian coach Wallace was quite disappointed with the last place finish of the hosts. “I knew we would have a tough time after senior players had decided not to play the tournament. But I am happy for the boys who got the chance and I can say confidently that the future looks good for Malaysia and we will now start our programme for the Asian Games in December.”

Australia Whip Kiwis
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

Australia 7 New Zealand 1

Holland 1 India 0

Defending champions Australia took a giant step towards retaining the Sultan Azlan Shah title when they whipped New Zealand 7-1 in the semi-final here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Friday.

Australia will now meet Holland in the final on Sunday. India take on New Zealand for the bronze medal play-offs.

Australia took a 3-0 lead in the first half before firing in another four second half goals. New Zealand could only get a consoltation goal in the 69th minute of the match.

For Australia the scorers were Grant Schubert (7th, 48th), Luke Doerner (21st, 23rd), Russell Ford (38th), Travis Brooks (56th) and Dean Butler (60th).

Australian coach Barry Dancer was delighted with his teams performance. "I think we started very slowly in the tournament and in the semis we put in a good team effort. The forwards were not firing early in the tournament but now we are confident about a good performance in the final."

Barry expects the final to be a tough game "as two highly ranked teams will be playing."

Barry admitted that early goals made it easier for the team to get into an early rythmn.

Weusthof Shatters Indian Hopes
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 23, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

Holland 1 India 0

By Sundeep Misra

It was surprising to see an ultra-defensive approach by India against Holland in the semifinals of the Azlan Shah. Holland’s 1-0 victory didn’t give anyone a great match to watch but definitely gave Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans his second Azlan final as a coach. In 2003, he took the Pakistan team to the Azlan Shah final here.

Holland’s match-winner was scored by Roderick Weusthof (63rd) when he converted the teams’s second penalty corner. For the Dutch, it was their first penalty corner conversion in the tournament. Surprising coming from the Dutch side!

Oltmans, as usual was straight to the point in the post-match conference.” We were tired after playing four matches in five days and we had decided to control the game and wait for our chances,” said Oltmans. “I think India is very strong on the counter-attack and that is where we concentrated and managed to stop them.”

It wasn’t difficult to see that the Indian coach Bhaskaran was hugely disappointed. “We had a plan but in the first half the team couldn’t execute it well and by the time we started playing well in the second half, we had a couple of missed chances that didn’t allow us to get into a rhythm,” he said. However, the Indian coach said that the team would have a session where mistakes would be shown and that the team would go all out to play for a bronze medal on Sunday.

Against South Korea when India won 3-0, the players, today, held onto long. Tejbir, Kanwalpreet, Vinay and Arjun were not releasing the ball on time. The surprising aspect of the game was that both the teams played with a lot of space. And it was Holland who utilized the areas better. The Dutch counter-attacks were better while India stuttered in the midfield not showing enough vision to create through balls. It was also the fact that playing with a three-forward strategy may have cost India dear in the second half when a goal mattered. But having packed his midfield, Bhaskaran did send the signal that he looked to his midfielders to deliver the ball. “I think they were on the ball too long,” admitted Bhaskaran.

The play did improve in the second half. Once, Tushar Khandekar was bang in the middle of the striking circle but couldn’t trap a ball that came one bounce. Rajpal also had an opening but he didn’t anticipate the pass. The Indians were making it tough for themselves. The Dutch forward line was more fluent and with a ball player like Nooijer, it was only a matter of time that a few moves would be threaded through. Dilip, Kanwalpreet, Sandeep Singh were playing aggressive hockey in the defence. All the three coming up and meeting the Dutch forwards with the result that most of the Dutch moves were thwarted before the Indian striking circle.

But an error undid all the good work in the 63rd minute when Vinay couldn’t tackle a Dutch forward cleanly and gave away a penalty corner. Roderick Westhof bent as if applying force for a high flick but the ball flew low and beat Adrian D’Souza for the first time in the match. It also marked Holland’s first penalty corner conversion in the tournament.

The Dutch held onto the ball having a 1-0 lead and started throwing long balls and would have made it 2-0 if Taeke Taekema’s penalty corner flick wouldn’t have been saved by Adrian.

India can still make it to the podium but they would have to play an attacking game that is engineered by their midfield. The bronze medal play-offs are always tough but looking at the September World Cup, all the teams in the first four would like to sign off with a win.

Confidence, after all, is the elixir of performance.

Dutch, Kiwis Play Draw; Ease Out Pak
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 22, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

New Zealand 0 Holland 0
Semi-finals: India vs Holland; Australia vs New Zealand

Asia Cup champions India will take on Holland in the semi-finals of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here on Friday. In the other semi-final, Olympic Champions Australia take on New Zealand in the second semi-final on the same day.

Holland ensured a semi-final place for itself after playing a goalless draw against New Zealand. Holland were tied with Pakistan on four points each but the Dutch pipped the Pakistan on a better goal average. While Pakistan had a goal difference of minus one, the Dutch had a difference of plus two.

Pakistan have themselves to blame for not getting the better of Argentina who had lost their first two matches before taking on Pakistan. Missed chances and a sluggish midfield ensured that Argentina played better hockey to prevail 2-0.

Pakistan would have gone through if the Kiwis had beaten the Dutch. But the match hardly lived up to its billing. Both the teams were confined to the flanks and kept ball possession without showing any real urge to create and score the goals. Holland had a few chances in the first half but twice Teun de Nooijer sent the ball into vacant spaces.

With around three minutes remaining in the match, the Kiwis made a last ditch effort to get a goal but the ball slashed from inside the striking circle hit the outside netting. In the dying seconds, both the teams kept the ball away and seemed happy in securing a draw that ensured Holland made it to the semi-finals.

Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans said that his team had the chance to wrap up the game but his forwards failed to deliver.

Oltmans refused to speak about the semifinal against India and said, “I don’t want to comment on the Indian team. We can only know after the semi-final is over.”

Argentina Put It Past Pakistan
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 22, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

Argentina 2 Pakistan 0

Juan Saladino’s double strike in two minutes ensured Argentina earned their first points but put Pakistan’s hopes of making it to the last four on hold till the crucial Pool B match between Holland and New Zealand was completed here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Thursday.

Saladino’s strike gave Argentina three points, their first victory after two consecutive defeats but it was despair for Pakistan who even after dominating the first half have only themselves to blame.

After a goalless first half, Argentina scored in the 47th minute when Saladino smashed in a penalty corner. A minute later, off a break in the midfield, Argentina raced into the Pakistan striking circle as Saladino struck again in the 48th minute.

But a minute later, the game was stopped as for the third consecutive day, heavy rains came down. The match began after 20 minutes but the South Americans were now dominating the midfield and keeping possession. Pakistan’s strikers were getting less off the ball and though they tried hard with Muhammad Saqlain, their central midfielder stringing together some good moves.

Argentina coach Sergio Roberto was happy that the team finally got their three points. “We played well in the earlier matches but couldn’t force a win,” said Saladino. “At least with this win over Pakistan, the boys would be confident about the next matches and also the period before the Champions Trophy in Terrasa.”

Pakistan’s coach Asif Bajwa said that the inability to put the chances away cost the team. “It will be disappointing not to enter the semis but we have to see what happens in the Holland-New Zealand match.”

Malaysia Hold Aussies
Sultan Azlan Shah

June 21, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia 2 Australia 2

Hosts Malaysia fought back gallantly with just 14 seconds left on the clock to hold the Olympic Champions Australia to a 2-2 draw here in a Pool B encounter of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. Australia needed a clear cut victory by four goals to top Pool B but now have to settle for second place. Both Australia and South Korea have the same number of four points but Australia is through to the semifinals with a better goal difference.

After waiting for four hours due to a delayed start because of rain, both teams finally took to the pitch and didn’t disappoint the few hundred spectators who had waited patiently to see Malaysia take on the Olympic Champions.

Malaysia shot into the lead when Kuhan’s penalty corner flick was deflected in by Ismail Abu in the 15th minute.

Australia equalized in the 27th minute when a Troy Elder penalty corner hit went straight into the body of defender Engku Malik and the umpire pointed for a penalty stroke. Aussie skipper Brent Livermore converted without a fuss.

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

Australia went ahead after resumption when Grant Schubert lurking inside the striking circle shot past the Malaysian goalkeeper to put his team into the lead.

Malaysia fought back with some tough hockey and would have equalized when Chua Boon Huat’s penalty corner shot was cleared on the line by Mark Knowles.

Just when it seemed that Australia would walk off with a 2-1 win, a Malaysian attack through the middle by Sukri Abdul Mutalib earned Malaysia a penalty stroke. Megat effortlessly converted the stroke for a memorable draw with Australia.

Hooter Signals Indian Delight

Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 21, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

As the hooter went signaling an Indian 3-0 victory over South Korea and with it a much awaited semi-final spot in the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament, coach Bhaskaran hugged Harendra Singh, his assistant coach that almost bordered on the ferocious. It was a moment that would be understood by those who had seen the intensity with which Bhaskaran has been demanding results from this Indian side.

“I wanted the boys to understand what it means to be in the semi-finals,” said Bhaskaran, his mobile phone ringing almost non-stop.

After taking a 2-0 lead by the 15th minute, Tejbir and then Sandeep Singh scoring vital goals, the rains came crashing down in the 29th minute. For three hours, the players had to wait and when the match started, Bhaskaran was worried if the Indian rythmn had been destroyed by the long wait. “I wanted the match to be over today,” said Bhaskaran. “Who knows what kind of body language the team might have the next day?”

Even though Korea attacked in the last seven minutes off the first half, India held on as Prabodh, Dilip, Kanwalpreet and then Viren forced the Koreans away. It was also one of those rare matches where South Korea couldn’t earn a single penalty corner in the match.

India waited for the counter-attack and it came in the 53rd minute when Shivender Singh along with Tushar streaked through. Shivender tried to dodge the goalkeeper but the ball bounced off the pads and went to Tushar who pushed towards goal as India increased their lead to 3-0.

Adrian D’Souza’s saves were termed by Bhaskaran as the turning points in the match as the Mumbai based goalkeeper twice kept away the Korean forwards from hand-shaking distance.

Somewhere at the back of Bhaskaran’s mind must be the thought that the last coach to have taken India to an Azlan Shah tournament victory was he himself in 1995. “I would be happy if the team plays a good winning game in the semi-finals,” said Bhaskaran. “After all the target is the September World Cup.”

India Enter Semis
Sultan Azlan Shah

June 21, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

India 3 South Korea 0

By Sundeep Misra

Despite a three hour rain delay and being down to ten men in the last seven minutes, India held onto beat Asian Games champions South Korea 3-0 and enter the semi-finals of the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here at the Bukit Jalil stadium on Wednesday.

India last won the Sultan Azlan Shah in 1995, then also under coach Bhaskaran. After the 2003 Asia Cup victory here at the Bukit Jalil stadium, this is the first time that India has entered the semis of a major tournament.

Indian coach Bhaskaran ecstatic in reaching the semifinals of the Azlan Shah said, “The team played with a lot of confidence and knowing that it was a crunch match, it was all the more creditable.”

India started off brilliantly with a three man forward line under Tushar Khandekar, Tejbir Singh and Shivender Singh. There was no unnecessary huddling into corners and the team spread itself creating space for every player. Tushar Khandekar, Shivender Singh and Tejbir Singh kept themselves upfront creating a lot of pressure for the Korean defence. Tejbir was the star of the first half with some great moves and held the ball long enough for the others to move into position.

It was Tejbir who gave the lead to India in the 9th minute. Sandeep Singh had a free hit; well outside the Korean striking circle as the junior World Cup star hit a clean, crisp hit into the circle where Tejbir angled his stick brilliantly to ensure the deflection beat Ko Dong Sik, the Korean goalkeeper.

With their tails up after taking the lead, the Indians rotated the ball well and also closely marked the Koreans not giving away too many errors in their own striking circle or in the midfield.

In the 15th minute, India increased the lead off their first penalty corner. Sandeep Singh’s low flick beat the Korean goalkeeper as India went ahead 2-0.

It was but natural that the Koreans would push harder and they did giving some anxious moments to the Indian defence which now had Kanwalpreet Singh doing a splendid job.

With seven minutes to go in the first half, heavy rains came down as the pitch was water logged making play difficult. The referees temporarily called off the game waiting for the rain to stop.

After a three hour break for the rains to clear, the match began with Korea making early inroads into the Indian half. For the remaining period of seven minutes that were played of the first half, the Indians were pinned to their own striking circle as the Koreans tried their best to cut the 0-2 deficit that was on Korea.

India managed to hold out before the break came for both the teams.

At the break, India leads 2-0.

Expectedly, Koreans kept up the pressure forcing the Indians onto the defensive. With Bhaskaran rotating the players fast, the fresh legs were always on the field as the Koreans did try hard but couldn’t breach the defence.
Adrian D’Souza also kept the flag flying with some very good saves in the second half. Twice, he dived to force the ball away even though the Korean forwards were almost onto him.

It was a counter-attack that gave India their third goal in the 53rd minute. Tushar Khandekar put Shivender through and the Mumbai lad streaked into the striking circle as Korean goalkeeper Ko Dong Sik was forced to come on top of the circle. But the ball bounced off the pads and went to Tushar who ran and tapped the ball into an empty goal.
Within two minutes, Korea had changed their goalkeeper with Lee Myung Ho coming in for Dong Sik.

Tejbir who had a wonderful match, however, was given a yellow card in the 63rd minute for a shove on a Korean player. Earlier, Tejbir had received a green card.

India earned their second penalty corner in the 67th minute but couldn’t convert.

Korea didn’t get a single penalty corner in the match which actually showed the tremendous amount of work that India did with their defensive play.

Looking ahead at the semi-finals, Bhaskaran said that the team was looking forward to it and each player would give their best in the match.

Pak Hold Kiwis
Sultan Azlan Shah

June 20, 2006

New Zealand 3 Pakistan 3

By Sundeep Misra

New Zealand were just two minutes away from a semi-final berth before Pakistan’s Imran Warsi struck a penalty corner to prevent the World Cup qualifiers winners from becoming the first team to qualify for the Azlan Shah semifinals.

New Zealand took the lead thrice in what was a thriller but each time Pakistan fought back to equalize.

The scorers for New Zealand were Bradley Shaw (6th), Shea Mcaleese (37th) and Ben Collier (66th). Pakistan scored through Muhammad Imran (10th), Muhammad Saqlain (44th) and Imran Warsi (68th).

New Zealand, high on confidence, after a 3-2 win in their first match against Argentina played attacking hockey all the way with Ben Collier and Bevan Hari combining very well.

Bradley Shaw struck a penalty corner in the 6th minute to give the Kiwis the lead but Pakistan neutralized quickly through another penalty corner conversion by Muhammad Imran.

The Kiwis could have forged ahead in the first half itself but five penalty corners, all in the space of a few minutes, were wasted.

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

Two minutes after the break, New Zealand took the lead off their sixth penalty corner. After selling a dummy to the Pakistan defence, Shea Mcaleese struck a powerful shot that went high into the net as Salman Akhbar tried vainly to stop the shot.

A penalty stroke awarded to Pakistan was converted by skipper Muhammad Saqlain as he flicked powerfully to equalize the scores at 2-2.

Just when it seemed that both the teams may play out for a 2-2 draw, the Kiwis struck a beautiful goal to take the lead in the 66th minute.

Gareth Brroks raced down the right flank and faced with the goalkeeper in front, shot back inside the striking circle where Bevan Hari standing on top of the circle struck a powerful shot. Ben Collier just threw in his stick to deflect the ball past Salman Akhbar as the Kiwis celebrated what they thought was the match-winner.

But Pakistan fought back and with just two minutes left, earned a penalty corner. Imran Warsi’s shot seemed to have been saved by the Kiwi goalkeeper but the ball slipped between the pads as Pakistan prevented the Kiwis from making it to the semi-finals.

Both Pakistan and New Zealand now need to win their last matches to make it to the semi-finals from Pool B. Pakistan play Argentina while New Zealand take on Holland.

Pakistan goalkeeping coach Shahid Ali Khan said that they were lucky to hold New Zealand after the Kiwis had taken a lead.

“I think we played badly and our forward line was low on the effort required to get in the goals. But we still have a match in hand and if we manage to beat Argentina, we would reach the semi-finals.”

Teun Does The Trick For Holland

Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament

June 20, 2006

Holland 4 Argentina 1

By Sundeep Misra

Dutch striker Teun de Nooijer struck twice in two minutes to wrest the initiative away from Argentina propelling Holland to a 4-1 victory and keep their hopes alive for a semi-final berth from Pool A.

Argentina had taken the lead in the 9th minute through a Matias Damian Vila strike and kept it for the duration of the first half.

Even in the second half, initially at least, Argentina dominated till Holland equalized in the 53rd minute through Rob Reckers. The equalizer came like a shot in the arm for the Dutch as they went on the offensive.

In the 57th minute, Teun de Nooijer took a snap shot from inside the striking circle to give the lead to Holland and in the 59th minute, after a lovely move with Ronald Brouwer, tapped home again to increase the lead to 3-1.

Argentina instead of throwing players into defend still attacked and would have got a couple of goals but for some sharp misses in the Dutch striking circle.

With three minutes to go, Teun de Nooijer, Floris Evers and Rob Reckers moved in with just one Argentinian defender in their way. But before Floris could take a shot, the Argentinian goalkeeper brought him down leading to a stroke. Geert-Jan Derikx missed the stroke when Mariano Rodolfo read it correctly to take the flick onto his pads.

Holland got their fourth goal with only 40 seconds to go. Rob Reckers and Ronald Brouwer moved in effortlessly with Ronald placing the shot past the Argentinian goalkeeper.

Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans wasn’t too pleased with the performance. “I am not too happy as we are still some way off from achieving the level we want,” said Oltmans. “Against Pakistan when we lost, we couldn’t convert but today we were converting. So in that manner, I am pleased with the team.”

Argentina coach Sergio who is also trying to rebuild a new Argentina side with some of the juniors who won the 2005 Junior World Cup said that despite the heavy 4-1 defeat, he was happy that the team played good hockey for 50 minutes before the Dutch got the breaks. “We are looking to the Champions Trophy and the World Cup and we hope that we would start playing well by then.”

Holland now meet New Zealand and a victory against the Kiwis will take them to the semi-finals. Argentina after two losses now meet Pakistan in their next match.

Bhaskaran Keeps Record Intact
Sultan Azlan Shah

June 19, 2006

Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

Inconsistency still seemed to be India’s bane even though the national team thrashed hosts Malaysia 5-2 to register their first win in two matches at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. The win enables India to keep their hopes alive for a semi-final spot from Pool A but lying in wait are the Koreans who stunned the Olympic Champions Australia 3-0 in what could be termed as a huge upset.

Indian coach Bhaskaran was happy with his team’s performance. “The midfield played well and worked with the forwards and that was one reason why we got in the field goals.”

For the coach, it was also a good day as he recorded his 21st win over Malaysia as a coach. “I have never lost a match to Malaysia as coach but I would be very satisfied if our team can put it across Korea on Wednesday and qualify for the semis.”

Bhaskaran did admit that the defence gives him sleepless nights. “At the same time, I do want to rotate the players as that is the only option where we can try out everyone,” he said. “Adrian D’Souza had a good game and so did Vikram Pillay.”

Bhaskaran also had a word of praise for Shivender who looked sharp and was responsible for India’s fifth goal earning a penalty stroke which Gagan converted for his second goal of the match.

Bhaskaran is wary of the Koreans but said that India will have to put away the chances against Koreans. “I think we will run them close and I do believe that if we don’t lose focus or composure, we can beat them.” India have three points from two matches while Korea have four from two games after a win and draw. India need a win as a draw might see Korea edge out India.

India Thrash Malaysia
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey

June 19, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

India 5 Malaysia 2

India kept its semi-finals hopes alive hammering hosts Malaysia 5-2 in a Pool A match here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament in Kuala Lumpur. After being beaten 1-4 by Australia, in the first match on Sunday, India needed a win to keep up morale and they did that in style by taking a 2-0 lead at the break. Malaysia did fight back by scoring twice but India kept up the scoring rate and even after being reduced to ten men in the 63rd minute after Vikram Pillay was shown the yellow card, they kept the Malaysians at bay to run out winners.

For India the scorers were Arjun Halappa (13th), Gagan Ajit Singh (22nd and 56th), Sandeep Singh (38th) and Tushar Khandekar (54th).

Malaysia reduced the margin through Azlan Misron (41st) and Jiwa Mohan (43rd).

India attacked from the first minute itself though Malaysia would have gone ahead if Adrian D’Souza wouldn’t have saved a stunning shot from Chua Boon Huat.

Shivender Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Hari Prasad had the Malaysians rattled upfront but errors in the midfield and the Indian defence gave Malaysia four penalty corners in five minutes but Adrian D’Souza was in tremendous form.

India took the lead in the 13th minute after a dazzling run by Arjun Halappa who went past three defenders and after drawing the goalkeeper flicked into an empty goal.

The second goal was a brilliant piece of play by Kanwalpreet Singh who feinted on the penalty corner shot and after the goalkeeper had fallen in anticipation of a grounder shot powerfully that went off the keeper’s pads. Gagan who was virtually standing next to the keeper shot in from close.

In the 34th minute, Gagan had a wonderful run down the left flank but his cross after beating the entire defence couldn’t be deflected into the Malaysian goal despite Shivender and Hari Prasad angling their sticks.

At the break, India led 2-0.

Three minutes after the break, India increased the lead to 3-0 when Sandeep Singh flicked in India’s second penalty corner.

Malaysia fought back and taking advantage of a error-ridden Indian defence scored twice in the space of two minutes. Azlan Misron deflected in a penalty corner in the 41st minute and then Jiwa Mohan shot home from close in the 43rd minute.

India threw men upfront with Tushar Khandekar a constant threat to the Malaysians. In the 54th minute, he picked up a pass and without any delay shot past the Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramanian.

Shivender was alert enough in the 56th minute to pick up a stray pass from the Malaysians and move into the striking circle. Kumar didn’t have any option but to stick-check him as the umpire gave a stroke to the Indians. Gagan’s high flick increased India’s lead to 5-2.

With seven minutes to go, India were down to ten men after a rash foul by Vikram Pillay earned him a yellow card. But the Indians brought in Viren Rasquinha and closed the game down not giving any chance to the Malaysians.

India now meet South Korea on Wednesday requiring a win that should send them through to the semi-finals from Pool A.

For coach Bhaskaran it was an important day as he notched up a 21st record win over Malaysia as a coach. “I have never lost a match to Malaysia as coach but I would be happy if we make it to the semi-finals after beating South Korea on Wednesday.”

Korea Stun Australia
Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament

June 19, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

South Korea 3 Australia 0

Asian Games Champions South Korea stunned Olympic Champions Australia 3-0 in a Pool A match here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament on Monday.

Jang Jong Hyun starred for Korea in converting two penalty corners while Kang Seong hammered in a field goal for the Koreans to lead 3-0 at the break.

In the second half, Korea put in a display that could have qualified as a session for juniors on how to maintain a 3-0 winning lead. The Korean defence kept away the Aussies as goalkeeper Ko Dong Sik came up with a stellar performance under the bar.

The Korean manager, Cho Sung Jun, said that they were very happy with the result but also said that “Korea were extremely lucky” that Australia didn’t get their shots on target. “If they had got their shots on target, maybe they could have drawn or won the game.”

Australian coach Barry Dancer was critical of his players and said that “they had a attitude problem.” Dancer’s observation was that the players were a bit complacent after beating Korea 6-0 in a training game and beating India 4-1 on Sunday. “It’s a lesson for the players and I hope we come out of it to win our next match against Malaysia to advance to the semi-finals.”

Australia did make the initial moves on the Korean defence in earning a penalty corner in the 16th minute but couldn’t make much headway after that.

Korea flicked home from their very first penalty corner in the 18th minute when Jang Jong beat Australian goalkeeper Daniel McPherson. Australia didn’t play their first choice keeper Stephen Lambert.

Korea increased the lead in the 21st minute when Kang Seong picked up the ball in the Aussie striking circle to hammer into the corner.

Jang Jong was back in action getting the Korean third goal in the 23rd minute off their second penalty corner. In the space of less than six minutes, Korea had stunned Australia with a triple strike.

Australia were distinctly unlucky when Hammond saw his penalty corner flick hit the upright in the 34th minute.
At the break, Korea led 3-0.

Australia did have chances after the break but the Korean defence was brilliant in their man-to-man marking. Both Korea and Australia had a penalty corner each in the second half but couldn’t breach the defence.

With around ten minutes left in the match, Australia seemed to have given up the fight as Korea controlled the midfield as the minutes ticked away.

Pak Beat Holland
Sultan Azlan Shah
June 19, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

Pakistan 3 Holland 2

Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akhbar brought off some remarkable saves to enable the former World champions beat European powerhouse Holland 3-2 in their opening match here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament on Monday.

Played in the morning, Pakistan had taken a 3-1 lead at the break. Rehan Butt (5th), Imran Warsi (19th) and Shakeel Abbasi (24th) getting the goals.

For the Dutch, their scorers were Floris Evers (14th) and Roderick Weustoph (69th).

Though, Pakistan scored in the 5th minute when Shabbir set up Rehan Butt with a wonderful pass, the Dutch attacked and earned three penalty corners which Salman Akhbar saved.

After the Dutch had equalized in the 14th minute, it did seem that the momentum might swing Holland’s way but Imran Warsi flicked in a perfect penalty corner in the 19th minute to give Pakistan a 2-1 lead.

A wonderful bout of passing between Waqas Sharif and Shakeel Abassi saw the former Pakistan junior captain Abassi hammer in the third goal.

Though Holland had a fourth penalty corner just before the break, they couldn’t cut the deficit.

Five minutes into the second half, Holland wasted their fifth penalty corner while the field attempts were being kept out by Salman Akhbar.

With only a minute to go in the match, Roderick scored for Holland but with not enough time on the board, Pakistan duly wrapped up the match 3-2 and moved a step closer to a semi-final position from Pool B.

Holland’s coach Roelant Oltmans said he was quite satisfied with the Dutch performance. “I am not too unhappy as this is the first tournament we are playing after the Champions Trophy in Chennai. The boys are still getting into the groove.”

Oltmans also made it clear that only one tournament counts at the moment and ‘that is the World Cup.’

Disappointed Bhaskaran
Sultan Azlan Shah
June 18, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

Australia 4 India 1

By Sundeep Misra

Giving space to the Australians inside your own striking circle is like putting a knife to your throat and slitting it. India did exactly that in the 7th and 11th minute ensuring that they never got a chance to make a comeback going down 1-4 to the Olympic Champions in their opening match here at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament on Sunday.

Indian coach V Bhaskaran, visibly disappointed, described the early goals as “soft” and combined with the sitters that India missed early in the match changed the “complexion of the game for us.”

Maybe, there is truth in what Bhaskaran says because India had a wonderful opportunity in the 5th minute but after a bout of passing between Vinay, Tushar and Rajpal, it was the Chandigarh lad who failed to control the game. An early goal for India could have pushed the Aussies to errors. Winning the match would anyway have qualified as a major upset. But atleast India could have made a match out of it.

Barry Dancer, the man who has taken Australia to a different level in the game, however, said, “We controlled the game and the only time when India had an upper hand was when Brent Livermore was shown the yellow card.”

Barry goes on to describe the Indians under Bhaskaran as a “team that doesn’t normally change its playing structure.” But he also said that India is under a new coach and we need to watch out as they could be a different team when the World Cup comes around in September.

India did cut the deficit to 1-2 with a Tejbir strike but even rain stopping play for 20 minutes couldn’t have stopped yet another Aussie build-up to another title. Matt Naylor got two and in the end Luke Doerner completed the tally with a penalty corner flick. Rajpal twisted his ankle and may be forced to miss out on the tournament. In the end, the road to the September World Cup doesn’t seem all that smooth.

Kiwis Fight Back To Win
Sultan Azlan Shah

June 18, 2006
Kuala Lumpur

By Sundeep Misra

New Zealand fought back from being two goals down at the break to beat Argentina 3-2 and register their first win at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament here on Sunday at the Bukit Jalil stadium.

Argentina had raced to a 2-0 lead but couldn’t sustain the pace in the second half giving ample space to the Kiwis who did a remarkable turnaround pumping in three goals to give them a winning start to their Azlan Shah campaign.
Argentina scored through Matias Damian Vila who flicked in both their goals in the 3rd and 28th minute.

After the break, the Kiwi renaissance was led by Hayden Shaw (37th) with a high flick off New Zealand’s first penalty corner.

In the 42nd minute, Bevan Hari and Gareth Brooks stringed together a wonderful move before Brooks shot into an empty goal with the Argentinian goalkeeper caught on the wrong foot.

The Kiwis scored the match-winner in the 62nd minute when Richard Petherick sounded the boards off a low flick after New Zealand had earned their second penalty corner.

Argentinian coach Vigil Sergio Roberto said that the Kiwis played well in the second half and his team after their 26 hour flight from Buenos Aires didn’t have much energy left in the second half though he clarified that “it was not an excuse.”

Vigil also said that the Azlan Shah tournament would be more of a testing ground for the Argentinian team as to where they stand in world hockey. “We need to utilize this opportunity to do well in the World Cup.”

New Zealand manager and former player, Peter Miskimmin, said that Argentina kept them pinned down in the first half but they changed tactics and used the flanks to outrun the Argentinian defence. “Once the gaps were created, we used them to good effect,” said Peter.

The Kiwi manager also hoped that they would have a similar result in the September World Cup where New Zealand also meets Argentina in their first match.





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