Australia emerged as Champions of the 2017 Azlan Shah Cup by defeating England 2-1 in the final. It was the 10th title for the Aussies who have made 15 finals since the inaugural tournament in 1983. England end the campaign with Silver and Argentina win Bronze.
Australia scored in the 38th minute through a Blake Givers penalty corner conversion. Lachlan Sharpe then doubled the advantage in the 53rd minute by picking up a rebound and scrambling the ball over the goal line after a penalty corner was well saved by keeper George Pinner. The very next minute England got one goal back through the effort of Sam Ward. Though England opted for power play by taking out their keeper, they were unable to find the second goal.
“It was a hard fought final and we are glad to get in front when it matters,” said Aussie coach Colin Batch. “It was a good competition and I am happy that the youngsters we brought along held their own”.
Argentina took the bronze after they defeated Malaysia 3-2 in a highly charged match. The South Americans had taken a 2-0 lead in the first quarter only to concede in the second quarter for a 2-2 draw at halftime. “A late goal from the Malaysians could have happened but we were prepared to go the extra length in the shoot-out as it was a situation that could happen, “said Argentina coach Rolando Rivero. He added, “As we have said before the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is a preparation tournament. We were trying new players. It was a really young team. Considering today match it was very difficult afor for us as most of the players that played in the 2016 Rio Olympics did not join us here.”
Argentina took the lead within the first minute through Juan Lopez. Although Malaysia had a chance to equalize four minutes later, Razie Rahim skied his penalty corner attempt. And Argentina made no such mistake from their first penalty corner in the 11th minute as Gonzalo Peillat’s Low flick sneaked nineteen the keeper Hairi Abdul Rahman and the postman to give the South Americans a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Malaysia got their act together in the second quarter and reduced the deficit through Joel Samuel van Huizen who deflected a long pass in the 24th minute. And Faizal Saari levelled scores in the 27th minute through a penalty corner set piece. The third quarter saw both teams playing cautiously and play was largely confined to the midfield and littered with many stoppages due to niggling fouls. Pedro Ibbara replaced Peillat for the penalty corner battery in the 48th minute and duly put Argentina 3-2 ahead. Try as they did, Malaysia could not find the elusive equalizer. “It was not a very good start to the game as 38 seconds into the game Argentina scored the first goal”, said Malaysian coach Stephen van Huizen. “We were one-goal down and as we tried to chase but went further down 2-0. But I think it was a good fightback. We were tight in our defense and played more compact in midfield and got a chance to come back to level 2-2. Unfortunately we knew that penalty corner is one of Argentina’s greatest strength and instead of Pelliat taking the shot they gave it to Ibarra and he scored.”
Earlier India defeated Ireland4-1 to take 5th place at the Azlan Shah Cup. The Indians were beaten for the first time by Ireland in the final pool match, this denying them a chance to vie for the bronze. It was India’s worst finish in the tournament since the inception of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 1983, having won the title five times, finished runners-up in 2008 and 2016 and won bronze medals for a record seven times, the last being in 2017. “Off course we played much better than yesterday (3-2 defeat against Ireland) and it was all about the technical skills, more low passes, trapping was much better”, said Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne. “Ireland could not intercept most of the ball. There was more discipline in the structure. I don’t know how many times Ireland was in the circle but that does not matter. It was a really good performance after a disappointing performance on Wednesday. But off course it was a really big disappointment not to play in the medal count and we know that in the whole tournament we played a lot of good matches. He further said, “It was just one bad performance against Ireland when we were not ourselves that cost us a lot of damage. Playing in 5-6th playoff must have been the biggest disappointment for the team. I am happy the way we came out playing today. It was much better.”
It was a far better performance from the Indians, their caused probably greatly assisted by the humid conditions that took its toll on the Irish. It took India just five minutes to take the lead from their second penalty corner which Varun Kumar sent a drag flick sailing past Jamie Carr. Shilanand Lakra extended the lead in the 28th minute before Varun returned to score his second and India’s third goal in the 32nd minute from their fourth penalty corner. Gurjant Singh netted the fourth goal in the 37th minute from open play. Julian Dale, eased the Irish pain by netting a goal in the 48th minute. “The very first thing is we played with 13 players and that wasn’t part of the plan”, said Irish coach Craig Fulton. I have three players not feeling well and that can happen. The things that we wanted to do was very depleted. We did not have enough power through the midfield but all credit to the players who gave their 100 percent when we were 3-0 down in the third quarter and fought back. It would be good if we are invited next year. We would love to come back. It is a fantastic tournament, very competitive and we scored in every game. We have beaten India (3-2) earlier and India defeated Malaysia 5-1 so it’s a very competitive tournament”. We could have got a result in some games, like were leading 2-0 against Argentina before losing 5-3. Australia are very strong and we had a good game against them. I think we more than did ourselves proud in this tournament and it is definitely was not a walkover”.
Roll of Honor
Fair Play Award; Australia
Man of the Match; Mark Knowles (Australia)
Top Scorer – Gonzalo Peillat (Argentina) – 8 goals
Player of the Tournament; Daniel Beale (Australia)
Best Goalkeeper; George Pinner (England)