Ipoh, Malaysia: The opening day of the 27th Edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah went as promised; End-to-end, thrilling, action packed 180 mins of action. What was interesting to note was that all matches saw five goals being scored. First up were Olympic champions Argentina who edged Asia Cup champions India 3-2 in a rain disrupted match and that was followed by an emphatic 4-1 by Australia over England. And when the crowds started filling up the stands in the final match between home side Malaysia and Ireland, which saw the Malaysians win comfortably by 4-1.
Asian Champions, India were stunned by the penalty corner ability of Gonzalo Peillat who notched a hat trick with goals coming in the 13th, 24th and 33rd minutes. India got their two goals, also via penalty corners through the effort of Amit Rohidas in the 26th and 31st minutes. The number one Asian team showed great determination and resilience throughout the match, playing their natural high paced hockey. The young team showed character against a very experience, Olympic Champion side. “Although we lost, I am proud of the performance of the players as the youngsters fielded today gave a good account of themselves”, said Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne.
In the second match of the day tournament favorites Australia opened their campaign on with a 4-1 demolition of England.
Malaysia got off to a rousing start when they defeated Ireland 4-1 in their opening match. The skipper Razie Rahim lead from the front and spearheaded the goal fest with a hat trick under his name. Three goals in the first 30 minutes took the fight out of the Irish and with the result a forgone conclusion at halftime. Malaysia survived a first minute penalty corner awarded to the Irish but once they got into their flow, there was no stopping them.
Skipper Razie Rahim, waltzed into the Irish semi-circle unchallenged to send in a reverse hit to give Malaysia the lead in the 4th minute. Barely had the cheers died down when striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin scrambled the ball over the goal line after some fine work on the right by Nik Rozemi Aiman in the 9th minute. Razie made it 3-0 with a penalty corner conversion in the 24th minute. And in the 44th minute Razie completed his hat trick by converting Malaysia’s sixth penalty corner. The hosts slowed the tempo a little in the final stages of the match which suited the Irish side who took advantage and scored in the 53rd minute via the effort from Kirk Shimmins. Ireland kept the pressure high and could have reduced the deficit considerably and opened the game up, as they won two penalty corners with 5 minutes still left to play.
In the inaugural game, the Australians scored through Dylan Wotherspoon (15th minute), Blake Govers (19th minute), Aaron Kleinschmidt (28th minute) and Lachlan Sharp (39th minute) while Phil Roper scored for England in the 25th minute. England started the game as the stronger side, with numerous circle penetrations early in the first quarter. But Australia soon found their rhythm and took the game out of the English reach. The world number showed their class with a high paced ball exchange all over the pitch, making the most out of the opportunities they got. Aussie coach Colin Batch said, “We were precise in our finishing despite having fewer circle penetrations. “Right now, we are thinking about recovery and getting some rest before we play Malaysia tomorrow night. “As usual Malaysia is a good team to play and we look forward to that in part of our Commonwealth Games preparation. It is important that we play well.”
India will take on England in the first match of day two, followed by Argentina and Ireland. Australia, the current world number one, will take on the lowest ranked team, Malaysia, but after today’s impressive display in front of their home fans, it will surely be a match worth watching.