Australia are Azlan Shah Champions

Ipoh, Malaysia
May 13, 2007

Australia 3 Malaysia 1

Olympic champions Australia overcame a spirited but disjointed Malaysia 3-1 to win the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Sunday.

Goals by Edward Ockenden (39th, 41st) and Russell Ford (53rd) set up the Australian victory while the Malaysians drew some consolation from Jiwa Mohan's penalty corner in the last minute of the game.

It was Australia's third title triumph in four years and their fifth overall, as they proved far too superior for the Malaysians who did a lot of running but precious little else.

For Malaysia, it was second time unlucky in the final. They had lost to India in 1985, the only other time the hosts had entered the final of this tournament.

Australia raised the level of their game when it mattered most and clearly, they were the quicker, fitter and better organised side than the Malaysians who simply did not have the ammunition to counter their mighty opponents.

Thus, the barren first-half during which the Malaysians kept up with the Aussies, gave no indication of what was to follow, but there were definite signs that the hosts would have to work harder to keep their rivals at bay.

Australia's big-match experience came into play in the second-half after failing to make any headway in the first session when they had only a couple of scoring opportunities.

The Malaysians defended for all their worth, but as the game progressed, the Aussies began to take a stranglehold on the proceedings.

A two-goal blitz in two-minutes early in the second-half effectively closed the game in Australia's favour.

Grant Schubert came up with a superb diagonal run from left to right on top of the circle and passed to Liam Deyoung. From the ensuing goalmouth scramble, Ockenden flicked home for the first Aussie goal.

(Courtesy, PTI)

India beat Korea, finish 3rd
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 13, 2007

India 1 South Korea 0

Sardar Singh’s first senior level goal for the senior team gave India the third place at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. The Indians retained their third place finish achieved last year.

Both India and South Korea did not play to expectations and it took a second half strike by Sardar Singh, his first for the country at the senior level, to eke out a podium finish.

India coach Joaquim Carvalho said he was happy to have retained the third place although they did not play that well.

“We missed numerous chances and the players were not in the right frame of mind after the semi-final defeat. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and as I have said earlier we cannot expect over night results.

“This has been good start for us and I have had this team for only a month now. So give us time. We have more good matches coming and we will get stronger because of that,” he said.

Both teams changed their keepers for the game for the first time in the tournament. Bharat Kumar took over from Baljit Singh while the Koreans preferred Lee Myung-ho over Ko Dong-sik.

For India Vikram Kanth also did not start as they used Gurbaj Singh in the midfield. The Indians were the more dominant side in the first half as they had a lot of chances to get the goals.

But once again all their hard work in getting the ball to the Korean D was wasted by poor finishing. Rajpal Singh also played a bit deeper and was playing more as a feeder rather than going forward himself.

India also had three penalty corners in the seventh, 17th and 31st minutes but all of them were wasted despite Raghunath taking the second two.

The second half was still a tale of missed chances but only this time there was greater effort by the Koreans.

A quick counter attack in the 55th minute allowed the Indians to snatch the winner. It was a lovely Roshnan Minz effort when he dribbled past three Korean defender and relayed the pass to Sardar Singh at the top D.

Sardar’s hefty hit sailed past goalkeeper Lee Myung-ho and turned out to be the winner.

The Koreans had three penalty corners and each time Indian goalkeeper Bharat Kumar managed to palm them away.

The Indians managed to keep the Koreans at bay to walk off winners.

INDIA: Bharat Kumar, Harpal Singh, Rajpal Singh, Prabodh Tirkey, V. Raghunath, Bimal Lakra, William Xalxo, Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Tushar Khandkar, Prabhjot Singh.
Reserves: Vikram Kanth, Shivender Singh, Sarwanjit Singh, Bharat Chikkara, Roshnan Minz.

SOUTH KOREA: Lee Myung-ho, Hong Sung-kweon, Kim Chul, You Hyo-sik, Lee Seung-il, Hong Eun-seong, Yoon Sung-hoon, Lee Sung-min, Lee Jae-won, Kang Moon-kweon, Jeong Yun-sang.
Reserves: Ko Dong-sik, Kim Jong,hoon, Kang Moon-kyu, Cho Suk-hoon , Nam hyun-woo.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Arg beat Pak, finish 5th
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 12, 2007

Pakistan slumped to their worse ever showing in the tournament with a sixth place finish when Argentina beat them 4-2 in a morning match here on Saturday.

It was Pakistan's worst finish in the Azlan Shah, a tournament they have won in 1999, 2000 and 2003. Last year they finished fifth.
The Argentines took a 3-0 lead at half time and had enough in reserve to stop a second half Pakistan fight back.

Pedro Ibarra started the scoring in the 11th minute and this was followed by goals from Lucas Rossi and Juan Garreta in the 16th and 24th minute. Argentina could have increased the score-line but Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar brought off some great saves.

In the second half, Pakistan played much better and Ehsan Ullah provided some glimmer of hope with a penalty corner goal in the 47th minute. Skipper Rehan Butt then added a second in the 61st minute.
But Ibarra put a stop to their fightback with a goal in the 65th minute which effectively sealed their position.

Argentine coach Sergio Vigil was very happy with the finish and felt that they have a team to build for the future.

“This is a tremendous result for us. We have improved with each match and for me it is important that the players did not allow the defeat against India to affect them in the last two matches.

“This tournament has been a good start to our preparations for the next two assignments which are the Champions Challenge in June and the Pan American Games in July,” he said.

In the play off for seventh place China defeated Canada 4-2.

(Courtesy, UNI)

India needs to convert against Korea
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 12, 2007

India has to put aside their disappointing 1-2 semi-final loss to Malaysia and regroup in order to retain their third place finish in last year's edition of the Azlan Shah.

The Indians have been inspiring in the tournament and their loss to Malaysia should not dampen their spirits. If only they had converted their chances in the semi-final, they would have been facing Australia in the final and not South Korea for the 3rd/4th position.

The Asian Games champions South Korean will not be an easy team to get past on Sunday. The Asian Games champion are known for their speed and also their tenacious defending. They have an ace in Jeong Yun-sang who has scored five penalty corner goals in the tournament.

India's coach Joaquim Carvalho has to come up with another tactical move to beat the Koreans.

“We need to get back on our feet and defend the third placing we won last year. The young players are doing well and the only problem we had was in converting our chances. That has got to improve,” he added.

The forwardline of Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh, Shivender Singh, Rajpal Singh, Roshan Minz and Bharath Chikkara have to be more clinical in their finish. They have the ability to take the ball right into the D before they lose it.

The Indian forwards have to make their shots on target count. They also need to release the ball once they are in the striking circle and not hang on to it. They have the talent to do it as they showed against Argentina.

Looking at the rebuilding excercise that India is going through with their hockey, a win against Korea will be a big morale booster.

(Courtesy, UNI)

India dominate but lose; Australia destroy Korea
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 11, 2007

Australia 6 South Korea 2
Malaysia 2 India 1

India’s hopes of a revival was put on hold as Malaysia beat them 2-1 to storm into the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Friday.

Malaysia qualified for the final after a lapse of 22 years. And it will be the first ever Malaysia-Australia final in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

In a pulsating semi-final match that swung from end to end the Malaysians displayed discipline and skills to match the Indians and provided a thrilling encounter which had the capacity 9000 crowd enthralled.

The Indians gave everything they had but could not douse the fire in the Malaysians who since the start of the tournament have been full of confidence.

India had their chances. Two penalty corners, numerous field attempts and they also had their drag flicker in the line-up.

India also stayed true to their attacking style with Rajpal Singh, Shivender Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Roshana Minz making forays in the 'D'. But the Malaysian defenders having numbers behind them managed to keep them away.

Malaysian national coach Sarjit Singh said their game plan was to defend in the first half and not concede the goal.

“It worked and the players played it to the letter. We got the goal we wanted and that was the spur the team needed,” he said.

The Indian coach Joaqium Carvalho disappeared after the match refusing to talk to the media. All attempts by the Indian media to try and track him down also failed. It certainly left a bad taste when he had been present at all press conferences in the earlier games.

In the match Indian midfielder Vikram Kanth marred his good performance in the tournament with a yellow card in the 19th minute. India can still match their podium finish of last year when the play South Korea for the bronze medal on Sunday.

Earlier, in the first semi-final the Australians proved too strong with their finishing touches for the Koreans to handle.

The first half was a closely fought affair with the Australians leading 2-1.
Desmond Abbott started the scoring in the ninth minute and Andrew Smith was on target in the 22nd minute. The Koreans found their goal through a penalty corner flick taken by Jeong Yun-sang in the 11th minute.

The Australians started off strongly the second half with an early goal by Liam Deyoung in the 37th minute and this was followed up with a field goal from Eli Matheson in the 51st minute.

Then Deyoung and Abbott ended the rout with their second goals in the 60th and 69th minutes respectively. The Koreans reduced the deficit through Lee Sung-min in the 57th minute but by then the fight was over for them.

Australian coach Colin Batch was happy with the performance especially the forwards who have knocked in 13 goals in two matches.

“It is always pleasing when your forwards start scoring. Our penalty corner rates are not good and we need to improve on that.

“But when you get the goals from the field attempts naturally your penalty corners will also be less. We are looking at improving on this aspect and we certainly will go all out to win the final,” he added.

The final on Sunday will be Australia’s eighth and fourth in a row.
They have woth the title four times in 1983, 1998, 2004 and 2005.

MALAYSIA: S. Kumar, Chua Boon Huat, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib, Megat Azrafiq, Jiwa Mohan, Engku Abdul Malek, Azlan Misron, Zulkifli Rejab, Kelvinder Singh, Ismail Abu, Jivan Mohan.
Reserves: Khairul Nizam, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Mohamed Shahrun Nabil, S. Selvaraju, Mohamed Razie.

INDIA: Baljit Singh, Harpal Singh, Rajpal Singh, Prabodh Tirkey, V. Raghunath, Bimal Lakra, William Xalxo, Sardar Singh, Vikran Kanth, Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh.
Reserves: Bharat Kumar, Shivender Singh, Didar Singh, Bharat Chikkara, Roshnan Minz

(Courtesy, UNI)

Pak bt China; Arg thrash Canada
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 11, 2007

Pakistan 5 China 3 (shoot-out)
Argentina 3 Canada 0

Argentina and Pakistan will contest for fifth place in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Saturday.

Pakistan qualified for the fifth place play off after a penalty shootout with China in the classification match on Friday. The match had ended 2-2 at regulation time and extra time failed to resolve the deadlock.

But in the ensuing penalty shootout, Pakistan triumphed 3-1. In an earlier match Argentina defeated Canada 3-0 at the Azlan Shah Stadium.

Pakistan’s penalty corner flicker Imran Mohammed scored both their goals in the match in the 10th and 29th minutes.

But the Chinese were the stronger side in the second half scoring through Song Yi and Liu Xian Tang in the 54th and 63rd minutes respectively.

During the shootout China only managed to convert one flick through Hui Ren Hu while Akhtar Ali, Zeeshan and Imran Warsi converted for Pakistan.

In the earlier match, Agustin Esteban started the scoring for Argentina in the ninth minute when he scored from a field attempt while Juan Ignacio added the second with a penalty corner goal in the 33rd minute.

Four minutes from the end Pedro Ibarra sealed victory with another penalty corner goal.

Last year in their debut at the tournament the Argentines finished in seventh place while Pakistan were placed fifth.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Raghu plays semi, thanks to official error
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 10, 2007

There was some good news for India on the eve of the semi-finals against Malaysia. They will be able to use the services of drag flicker V. Raghunath in the crucial encounter. And it was due to a mistake made by officials when recording the scoresheet.

Raghunath was shown the yellow card in the match against China and then also against Argentina. Going by the rules he should face a one match suspension.

But a check with the tournamwnt director Ian Faulkner revealed that the player listed as receiving the yellow card was Bimal Lakra whose name on the scoresheet was just above Raghunath's.

"I have to go by the official score sheet. As far as I know no player has been suspended for any match in this tournament. Mistakes do happen but there is nothing I can do," he said.

Faulkner was shown a picture by the agency photographers where the umpire flashed the yellow card to Raghunath in the China match.

All he said is that he will check but the status remains. That means Raghunath can play.

It was a funny situation as the India team was not aware of it and their coach Joaquim Carvalho was already planning to replace Raghunath with Didar Singh.

Now the Indian officials will wait until before the match just to make sure there is no last minute problem in fielding the 18-year old Raghunath.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Positive India ready for Malaysia
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 10, 2007

There seems to be a new found optimism in the Indian hockey team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
And coach Joaquim Carvalho feels that they have what it takes to go all the way. On Friday, the Indians will play host Malaysia in the second semi-finals of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

And India despite their decision to have a host of youngsters in the team will certainly start as favourites after their good showing in the three previous matches in the group stage.

India lost to Australia 0-1 and then went on to beat China 5-4 and then Argentina 2-0. The game against the South Americans was their best as they kept up their attack until the end and managed to score the two goals in the last three minutes of the match.

“This match is the right start to our team rebuilding process. This young team has shown that they have what it takes to make the team at international level and I believe that we will only get better from here.

“I cannot praise any one player as every member of the team has played his part and we have a new self belief in the team. This augurs well for the future,” he said.

But the Indian coach is not under-estimating the opponents. He said Malaysia is also riding high after making the semi-finals and they have also included a number of juniors who are performing well.

But what has given Carvalho the confidence that they can go far is the overall performance of his young forward line.

“They are finally playing the Indian way. They are taking on defenders and are complementing each other. This is great and for me that is the way to go. We are going to see this kind of performance in the future,” he said.

The Indians have rotated their forward line with Prabhjot Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Bharat Chikkara, Rajpal Singh, Shivender Singh and Roshanan Minz.

Rajpal is having one of his best tournaments where his distribution of the ball into the D is as good as any seen in world hockey. But he needs to be more aggressive when moving along the flank as opposing defenders tend to body check him easily.

Chikkara and Minz are making their debut and it is good to see them playing welll under pressure.

“But it is just not the forwards. Our midfield is doing great work and I’m extremely pleased with the efforts of Vikram Kanth. They are all doing a good job and we need to build on this team,” he said.

Drag flicker V. Raghunath is suspended for a match after his second yellow card in the match against the Argentines. But the Indians are appealing to tournament director Ian Faulkner to allow the 18-year old to play.

They claim that it was not a red card offence and he should not be penalized further with a one match suspension.

But Carvalho is not unduly worried about the player’s absence. He said that Didar Singh will replace him in the midfield and has high hopes that the forwards will get the goals instead.

“If we can score from the field attempts then we will have no problems. The penalty corners will not count. I believe that my forwards will deliver and we will get the goals,” he said.

Strategy-wise the Indians are expected to keep up their attack minded game plan. Against Argentina,Carvalho said that their increased attack tempo was the reason for the win.

“We knew we had to keep up the attack against Argentina to win. And that ploy worked. We will certainly devise something for Malaysia. We have already played them in a practice match and have seen them in action here,” he said.

In the two practice matches played in Kuala Lumpur before the tournament the Indians lost the first match 0-1 and drew the other 1-1. It must be remembered that it was after these two matches that midfielder Ignace Tirkey quit the team under mysterious circumstances and Vikram was called up at the 11th hour.

India winners in 1985, 1991 and 1995 have had bad experiences in the meet over the last few years. On Friday, they will get a chance to erase those memories by booking a place in the final.

For that they will need nothing short of a heroic effort.

(Courtesy, UNI)

India enter semis; Aus crush China; Korea oust Pak
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 9, 2007

India 2 Argentina 0
Australia 7 China 2
South Korea 4 Pakistan 2

India left it late but still provided a thrilling finish to down Argentina 2-0 in a Group B match and book their berth in the semi-finals of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Wednesday.

They are joined in the semi-finals by Asian champions South Korea and reigning Olympic champions Australia .

In Group B South Korea defeated Pakistan 4-2 in their postponed encounter while the reigning Olympic champions Australia were big winners in Group A when they defeated China 7-2.

Australia, India and Argentina finished with six points each. But the Aussies after their big win had the best goal difference and India the second best. The Argentines who had won their first two matches were found wanting in the last match.

In the cross-over semi-finals, played on Friday, hosts Malaysia meet India while South Korea play Australia .

After several disappointing exchanges in the first half the Indians only came alive in the last five minutes, scoring twice in the space of two minutes.

It was Bharath Chikkara who scored his first goal in the 67th minute and then in the 69th minute Tushar Khandekar sealed the match with a field goal.

India’s win was marred by the yellow card to penalty corner drag flicker V. Raghunath. It was his second yellow card in the tournament and he might have to sit out the semi-finals.

Indian coach Joaquim Carvalho said that they would not worry unduly about Raghunath’s absence in the semis.

“We have options in covering him and we also have a good striking force who are now able to deliver the goals. So his absence is of no consequence now,” he said.

Carvalho also said that he was confident playing the Argentines after having watched them earlier.

“I felt that we just needed to increase the tempo of our attacking play and the goals would come. The forwards are really playing well and they are our trump card. There is no doubt that we have the capacity to go all the way and this win is just the start,” he said.

The Mumbai coach who is handling the team for the first time added that the win is also the right tonic to set up their rebuilding programmes and they can only improve from here.

He said the semis-finals offer a different game and he will think about it on Thursday.

Earlier, Pakistan was bundled out of the semi-final by South Korea. The Koreans snatched a 4-2 win.

The match on Monday was abandoned with both teams tied at 2-2. Pakistan had scored their goals through Tariq Aziz and Imran Mohammed in the fifth and 15th minute.

Korea who trailed twice hit back with goals through Kang Moon-Kweon in the ninth minute and Jeong Yun-sang in the 24th minute.

Yun-sang was again on target in the 48th minute he scored from a penalty corner attempt. It was followed by a field goal from Yoon Sung-hoon in the 61st minute.

In another Group A match, Australia hammered away at China 7-2 to book their semi-final berth.

Grant Schubert playing his 100th cap scored the first hat-trick of the tournament when he scored in the 37th, 52nd and 63rd minutes. Their other scorers were Russel Ford (15th, 47th), Mathew Naylor (19th) and Brent Livermore in the 25th minute.

The Chinese replied through Meng Li Zhi and Soing Yi in the 42nd and 70th minutes.

INDIA: Baljit Singh, Harpal Singh, Ralpal Singh, Prabodh Tirkey, Bimal Lakra, William Xalxo, Sardar Singh, Vikran Kanth, V. Raghunath, Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh.
Reserves: Shivender Singh, Gurbax Singh, Didar Singh, Bharat Chikkara, Roshnan Minz.

ARGENTINA: Mariano Rodolfo, Juan Ignacio, Lucas Martin, Rodrigo Vila, German Mariano, Thomas Argento Innocente, Lucas Rossi, Pedro Ibarra, Lucas Rafeal, Agustin Esteban, Ignacio Ricardo.

Reserves: Juan Martin, Juan Eduardo, Rodrigo Luis, Juan Manuel, Manuel Erunet.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Canada restrict Pak; Mas enter semis
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 8, 2007

Pakistan 2 Canada 0

Pakistan needed a big win but only managed to walk off with a 2-0 victory over Canada in a Group B match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Tuesday.

Now they have to battle out with South Korea for the remaining berth. Hosts Malaysia grabbed the other vacant slot with a 1-0 win over the Koreans in a later match.

The Malaysians became the first team to make the semi-final in the tournament as they remain unbeaten in the group phase. They have seven points. It was a Ismail Abu field goal in the 60th minute which gave them that rare win over the Koreans.

The Pakistanis and Koreans were tied 2-2 in the match on Monday before it was postponed when there was blackout at the stadium. That match will resume on Wednesday.

The Pakistanis have four points after two matches. Their other match with Malaysia ended in a 2-2 draw on the opening day.

The Canadians, on the other hand were already out of the reckoning for a semi-final spot as they had lost their earlier two matches to South Korea (0-1) and Malaysia (0-2).

On Tuesday, it did not take long for Pakistan to open the scoring from a hit taken outside the D. Shabbir Khan's deflection had goalkeeper Michael Mahood beaten.

For a while Canada held their own and restricted Pakistan to the midfield. But as the first half was about to end, Pakistan scored their second goal.

Akhtar Ali took the ball at the 25 yard line and dribbled his way into the D in the 32nd minute and let fly with a hefty shot. The Pakistanis led 2-0 at half time.

The second half saw the Canadians playing a tighter game and they managed to break up the Pakistani attacks early. When the Pakistanis broke through, the Canadian goalkeeper Mahood was on hand to prevent the moves.

It was a series of missed chances and Pakistan had to content with just a two goal win.

Pakistan coach Islahuddin Siddique said that they missed with several sitters and should have won by a bigger margin.

“They played a good game but those misses could be costly. The main thing is that we are very much in the semi-final hunt and that makes it an important win,” he said.

Canadian coach Louis Mendonca lamented their poor performance in the first half for their defeat.

“It was a bad first half and we just played flat. The players should have done better and we need to sort that out. The second half was an improvement and we managed to get it moving.

“We are out of the semis but we still have two more matches at the lower end. So we need to regroup and try and do better in those two matches.


Group A

Argentina 2 2 0 0 4 2 6
India 2 1 0 1 5 5 3
Australia 2 1 0 1 1 1 3
China 2 0 0 2 6 8 0

Group B
Malaysia 3 2 1 0 5 2 7
Pakistan 2 1 1 0 4 2 4
S. Korea 2 1 0 1 1 1 3
Canada 3 0 0 3 0 5 0

(Courtesy, UNI)

India need to beat Arg
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 8, 2007

India, who finished third in last year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, have their backs against the wall and only a fighting display in their last Group A match can help them in their effort for another top three finish.

India face a high riding Argentina in their third Pool match where the South Americans go through to the last four if they win their third consecutive match. India have to beat Argentina by a two goal margin if they hope to enter the semi-finals.

India started off their campaign with a 0-1 defeat to Australia and then laboured to a 5-4 win over China. The South Americans on the other have maximum points with two wins over Australia (1-0) and China (3-2). They have a plus two goal different while India is even.

Australia can also make the grade as they are playing China in their last match. They too would need to score more goals to ensure their place.

Indian coach Joaquim Carvalho admitted that it will not get any easier as all the teams are fighting for points and could not be counted out of the equation for a semi-final berth.

“But it is in our hands if we want to make it. I have said before that goal difference might be a key issue for the qualifiers in our group. We need a two goal win over the Argentines.

“That is not an impossible task. We just need to improve further and also to make sure we make full use of their mistakes. I am happy with our display thus far but the defenders have to work harder to eliminate the mistakes at the back.

“They were a little too careless in the match against China where we conceded a number of penalty corners,” he said.

The Chinese gained six penalty corners and scored four. Three were direct attempts and one an indirect.

Argentina like India has a relatively young side with many of their 2005 national juniors elevated to the senior team.

Their main goal scorers in this tournament have been the 25 year old Rodrigo Vila and junior Lucas Rossi. Vila has 121 caps while the 21 year old Rossi earned his 13th cap in the match with China.

India’s performance in the two matches has been very positive and they have managed to play as a unit despite past tendencies to be over individualistic.

They are now willing to get behind the ball and make forays into open spaces and this allows for greater attacking options.

Two players have come in for special mention by the Indian coach. They are Vikram Kanth and their latest penalty corner drag flicker V. Raghunath.

“Vikram is a good link man on the left and he gives us depth in the attack. He has a very good tackling sense and his ability to read the opposing moves is also an advantage. He can only get better and I hope to see him improve further once he has enough caps under him,” he said.
Vikram only came in a day before the tournament as a late replacement for Ignace Tirkey. But he has started in both matches.

Raghunath played in the match with China but was left out of the first game completely. He scored two goals in the 5-4 win over the Chinese and his powerful drag flick has caught attention.

“He is getting better and I rate him highly as a future top penalty corner flicker. He has a lot of work to do but you surely see a shade of Sohail Abbas in the way he executes. Watch out for him,” said Carvalho.

But like many of the world’s top drag flickers, Raghunath’s problems also is in his open play. Raghunath was put in a midfield position for the China match so as not to affect the defence should be make some unforced errors.

“He played reasonably well and that is good. We need to develop him into a better player so that we can take advantage of his flicks,” added the coach who is handling the team for the first time.

The towering 18 year old is likely to be on the starting list for the match against Argentina. And another goal scoring act could well make him and indispensable member of the team since they are short of top drag flickers at the moment.

But more than that the Indians have the semis as their main focus and they would settle for a win whichever way the goals come.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Korea-Pak match abandoned
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 7, 2007

South Korea 2 Pakistan 2 (match abandoned)

A half hour blackout in the area surrounding the Azlan Shah Stadium marred the third day of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Monday. And this in turn forced the match between Pakistan and South Korea to be abandoned.

The blackout occurred in the 27th minute of the match with the teams tied at 2-2.

But when the power came back to the stadium, both the teams then refused to play as full power had not been restored.

Pakistan chief coach Islahuddin Siddique said that some areas on the pitch had shadows especially in the striking circle areas.

“It will be dangerous for the game to continue as the players could get hurt in a high level match like this. We thought of the safety of the players in wanting the match to be played only when power is fully restored,” he said.

At the time of the blackout Pakistan and South Korea were level at 2-2. Pakistan scored their goals through Tariq Aziz and Imran Mohammed in the fifth and 15th minute respectively.

The South Koreans trailed twice but hit back with goals through Kang Moon-Kweon in the ninth minute and Jeong Yun-sang in the 24th minute.

The match will now be played at a time and date which will be set by the technical delegate after a meeting with both teams later at night.

(Courtesy, UNI)

Arg bt China 3-2
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 7, 2007

Argentina was given a scare by China before prevailing 3-2 in a hotly contested Group A match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Monday.

It was the second win for the South Americans in the meet and they have put themselves in pole position to make the semi-finals on Friday. On Sunday the Argentines had defeated Australia 1-0 to head the group with maximum six points.

Now they need a draw with India in their last match on Wednesday to make the cut. That result would put the Indians out unless China do them a favour by beating Australia.

In the match against China, Argentine skipper Rodrigo Villa scored twice in the 14th and 33rd minute to give them the lead in the first half. China’s first half goal was scored by Liu Xian Tang in the 26th minute.

The second half saw the Chinese staging a tremendous fight back and they found the equalizer in the 59th minute through their skipper Song Yi from a penalty corner direct flick.

But the Argentines in a quick counter attack found ample space along the flanks to break through in the 64th minute and Lucas Villa was on hand to slot home from close range with goalkeeper Su Ri Feng beaten.

Argentine coach Sergio Vigil said that they may have taken maximum points but it it is the match with India that will decide the issue.

“We are not in the semis yet at this moment. There is still one more match with India and that is the crucial one. We need to take a point from that match.

“Today I’m happy on two counts. First we managed to play as a unit and transfer the ball well. The second one is that the Chinese gave us a fight which allowed us to learn more about their game. They showed good skills and will be hard to beat in the future,” he said.

Vigil also said that the Chinese had shown vast improvement since he saw then at the World Cup qualifiers in Changzhou in April last year.

“A very much improved side. There is no doubt that they will get better. This was a good lesson for us and we are happy to have won," he added.

Both teams will take a break on Tuesday and wrap up their fixtures on Wednesday. China’s last match is against Australia.

India get past China 5-4
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 6, 2007

India 5 China 4

Former champions India scored a narrow 5-4 win over China in a high scoring Group A match on the second day of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here today.

Just five months ago the Chinese had beaten India for the first time in an international match at the Doha Asian Games. That 3-2 defeat ended India’s semi-finals hopes.

Revenge was very much on the mind of the Indians but more than that pride was also at stake. It wasn’t a classic match but the win kept the Indians in line for a semis spot. On Saturday they had lost 0-1 to Australia.

Both the teams played open hockey, attacking at every opportunity as the goals goals flowed freely with each taking the lead at turns.

But a better second half finish allowed India to chalk off this morale boosting victory over the Asian Games silver medalist China.

India coach Joaquim Carvalho said that they were the better side and he was not at all surprised at the win.

“We had better of the exchanges but poor penalty corner defending cost us some goals. Overall, we were the better team and I still think that China’s win in Doha was a fluke. We showed today that we are better in many aspects.

“This win puts us back in the hunt for the semi-final spot. I do not want to criticize any particular player but some of them did not play up to mark in certain situations,” he said.

The Chinese went into the attack and in the fourth minute took the lead. They gained a penalty corner and Yu Yang made no mistake with his flick beating Baljit Singh.

That lead did not last long with India striking back and scoring the very next minute with a quick counter play. Harpal Singh took a free hit outside the box and Prabhjot Singh lurking on the far left had the easy task of slotting home from close range with goalkeeper Su Ri Feng out of position.

Both sides attacked and each had two penalty corners in the first half. India then took the lead with the first attempt in the 18th minute with Raghunath flicking it high past the goalkeeper.

Just like China, earlier, the Indians failed to defend their lead. The Chinese gained their next penalty corner in the 20th minute and this time captain Song Yi scored with a direct flick.

The Indians had a couple of chances but then they lacked numbers up front to take advantage of the crosses into the D.

But just as the half came to and end the Indians attacked with Roshnan Minz linking up with Probhjot to take the ball into the D. Prabhjot’s hit from the top D rebounded after hitting the post and as Tushar Khandekar went for it the ball hit a Chinese defender and a penalty stroke was awarded.

Rajpal Singh had no difficulty in converting the stroke for a 3-2 lead going into the breather.

The second half started with China drawing level when Hu Hui Ren scored off their fourth penalty corner in the 37th minute but the towering Raghunath put the Indians back in front with a penalty corner goal of his own in the 42nd minute.

In the 60th minute the Indians gained another penalty corner and this time Raghunath’s drag flick hit a Chinese defender on the goal line and the second stroke was given to India.

Bimal Lakra made not mistake with a power flick. But that did not stop the Chinese as they kept attacking.

They then reduced the deficit in the 64th minute through a penalty corner goal from Song Yi.

INDIA: Baljit Singh, Harpal Singh, Ralpal Singh, Prabodh Tirkey, Bimal Lakra, William Xalxo, Sardar Singh, Vikran Kanth, Gurbaj Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh.
Reserves: Bharat Kumar, Shivender Singh, Didar Singh, Bharat Chikkara, Roshnan Minz.

CHINA: Sun Tian Jun, Fang Ming Luo, Jang Shang Xi, Lu Feng Hui, Song Yi, De Yun Ze, Hu Liang, Yu Yang, Na Yu Bo, Su Ri Feng, Hu Hui Ren

Reserves: Li Wei, Liu Xian Tang, Meng Li Zhi, Meng Jun, Ao Chang Rong.

Arg stun Aus; Mas bt Can
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 6, 2007

Argentina 1 Australia 0
Malaysia 2 Canada 0

Argentina stunned tournament favourites and Olympic champions Australia 1-0 in Group A on the second day of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here on Sunday.

The win by the Argentines was their first over Australia in 17 years. They last beat the World Number two at a four nation meet in Australia. This is the first meeting between the two teams in this tournament series.

The hero for the South Americans was Lucas Rossi who managed to latch on to a penalty corner rebound and score from close range beating goalkeeper Daniel Mcpherson in the 48th minute.
It was the only penalty corner of the match for Argentina. Australia on the other hand had numerous chances through their field attempts and also six penalty corners. But they failed to get the crucial goal.

In a Group B match hosts Malaysia defeated Canada 2-0 to keep their semi-final hopes alive. They had on Saturday drawn 2-2 with Pakistan.
Today, goals by Jiwa Mohan and Mohamed Shahrun Nabil in the 11th and 70th minutes were enough to give them full points from the match. They now have four points from two matches.

Korea win; Mas hold Pak
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 6, 2007

South Korea 1 Canada 0
Pakistan 2 Malaysia 2

In the opening Group B match Asian Games champions South Korea notched a 1-0 win over Canada in the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup played here on Saturday.

They scored in the 44th minute through a penalty corner conversion by Jeong Yun-sang to garner full points.

In the second match Malaysia and Pakistan drew 2-2 in an exciting, attacking game.

Malaysia scored both their goals in the seventh and 29th minute through Zulkifli Rejab and Ismail Abu respectively while Ullah Ehsan and Imran Warsi replied for Pakistan in the 13th and 42nd minutes.

Australia bt India 1-0
Ipoh, Malaysia
May 5, 2007

Australia 1 India 0

By a hockey correspondent

India provided a refreshingly good display of disciplined hockey but still went down 0-1 to Olympic champions and tournament favourites Australia in the opening match of the 16th edition Sultan Azlan Shah Cup played here on Saturday.

A solitary goal strike in the 50th minute was enough to give the world number two a 1-0 win. Both teams had to endure hot conditions in the opening match of the tournament.

Indian coach Joaqim Carvalho, said the performance of the young team was ‘superb’ and felt that they have what it takes to be back at the top of their game.

“Putting the narrow defeat aside, it was good showing by the young players. I think we are moving in their right direction and you can see that they played out the game plan well.

“The weather conditions and new turf did have an effect on the players but then we just need to adapt to it. It is a good start and to play well against the top team in the world is a plus point,” he said.

Vikram Kanth, who arrived just a day earlier to replace Ignace Tirkey, was given a starting role in the first 11 as he partnered Bimal Lakra and Prabodh Tirkey.

In the backline, the pairing of William Xalxo and Harpal Singh was also effective as they cut off the Aussie raids early to take the pressure away.

It was Rajpal Singh playing on the right flank that provided the much needed depth in attack with his darting runs and within ten minutes had provided three clear shots into the goal area. Each time there were no takers.

India earned the only penalty corner of the first half in the 10th minute but Harpal’s direct hit was well saved and padded away to safety by goalkeeper Stephen Lambert.

The Australians did not have any clear shots at goal although they did earn four free hits within the 25 yard line. The teams went off for the breather goalless.

It was the Australians who came back stronger as they forced the pace to send the Indians back pedaling. In the 40th minute, the Aussies earned their first penalty corner and Andrew Smith’s high flick to the left was well saved by goalkeeper Baljit Singh.

From then on the Australians slowly assumed control of the match.

In the 45th minute the Indians had a good look at the goals with Roshan Minz, who is making his international debut, dribbling into the D to unleash a reverse hit. It just missed the post.

Five minutes later the Aussies took the lead when a long range hit into the semi-circle was deflected into goal by Edward Ockenden, who is playing in only his 10th international match. It was also his first goal for Australia.

India did break away a few times but they messed it up with Tushar Khandekar and Prabhjot Singh missing their attempts.

Australia found two more penalty corners in the 60th and 68th minutes but on both occasions their initial push by Russel Ford was weak.

In the end with the players tiring under the intense heat, Australia was happy to carve out a solitary goal win.

Teams: India: Baljit Singh, Harpal Singh, Rajpal Singh, Prabodh Tirkey, Bimal Lakra, William Xalxo, Sardar Singh, Vikran Kanth, Gurbaj Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Prabhjot Singh.
Reserves: Bharat Kumar, Shivender Singh, Didar Singh, Bharat Chikkara, Roshan Minz.

Australia: Liam De Young, Robert Hammond, Russel Ford, Edward Ockenden, Grant Schubert, Bevan George, Stephen Lambert, Mathew Naylor, Mathew Wells, Kiel Brown, Fergus Kavanagh.
Reserves: Joshua Hawes, Andrew Smith, Eli Matheson, Brent Livermore, Desmond Abbot.

Ignace opts out
Ipoh, Malaysia
April 3, 2007

India suffered a jolt even before kicking off their campaign in the eight-nation Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament with ace midfielder Ignace Tirkey "opting out" of the squad citing "personal reasons".

His replacement, Vikram Kanth of Indian Oil is expected to arrive in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Friday, ahead of India's opening fixture against Australia on Saturday, according to chief coach Joaquim Carvalho.

Also missing from the Indian contingent was manager R K Shetty from Bangalore, who also opted out at the last moment, citing "family reasons".

Assistant coach Mohinder Pal Singh has been entrusted with the managerial responsibility in Shettys absence.

Speaking soon after the team's arrival from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon, Carvalho said, "Ignace himself opted out of the tournament after low-key performances in the two practice games we played in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week.

"He told me that he was not up to playing in the competition due to personal reasons and so we agreed to let him fly back to India. Vikram Kanth, a solid midfielder, is expected to reach here on Friday morning."

India lost 0-1 to Malaysia in their first practice game in Kuala Lumpur and the teams drew 1-1 in the next match.

"In both the matches, Ignace was not up to the mark. I would like to categorically state that his returning home is nothing to do with discipline or fitness. So, there are no issues here," Carvalho clarified.

According to the chief coach, who took charge of the team barely a month back, replacing Vasudevan Baskaran, Ignace had passed the fitness test prior to the team's departure to Malaysia.

Carvalho declined to elaborate on the "personal reasons" that led to Ignace's sudden departure, but it was learnt that the midfielder was in the process of securing release from MEG, Bangalore, to pursue offers from a public company. As such, he could not focus on his game.

India are clubbed with Australia, Argentina and China in Group A, while Pakistan, Malaysia, Canada and Korea comprise Group B.

(Courtesy, PTI)

Don't expect wonders: Gill
New Delhi
April 4, 2007

Amid a severe crisis dogging Indian hockey, the game's governing body Chief KPS Gill has told fans not to expect the team to work wonders in their next outing at the Azlan Shah hockey tournament in Malaysia, starting on Saturday.

"The team finished third last year. However, we may not finish that high this time around," Gill told PTI.

After hitting record lows last year with early exits from the World Cup and the Asian Games in Doha, the Indian team is going to Malaysia with new coach Joachim Carvalho and Prabodh Tirkey.

India open their challenge against a tough opposition in Australia at Ipoh.

Gill reiterated that the IHF wanted to have a look at the future of Indian hockey at the tournament.

"We have a young team there. Let's see how things go," Gill said.

Stalwarts like former captain Dilip Tirkey, Gagan Ajit Singh and Viren Rasquinha were left out of the Malaysia-bound squad, but Gill assured the trio will be back.

"They will be included in the next preparatory camp" to be held after the tournament for the Champions Challenge tournament in Belgium.





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