Ipoh (6 April, 2016): Defending champions New Zealand clawed back from the jaws of defeat to hold Malaysia to a 3-3 draw in the opening day of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh today.
Cheered on by Ruler of the State of Perak, His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, supportive fans numbering close to 8,000 and against the backdrop of deafening beat of drums, the Malaysians made great strides against the World No 8 and two-time champions.
The hosts made the first move by earning a penalty corner in the sixth minute. Jalil Marham’s push from sideline was, however, poorly stopped.
On the opposite end, the Black Sticks pounded the Malaysian defence and earned two penalty corners within a space of five minutes. Malaysian goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman was also tested in the 12th minute with a powerful shot from Kane Russell and did well to parry it away.
Canada’s Mark Pearson (left) and Pakistan’s Fareed Ahmed battle for the ball in the opening day of the 25th
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia on Wednesday. Pakistan won 3-1.
But the early proceedings just before the end of the first quarter went Malaysia’s way shocking even the Kiwis. Azuan Hassan broke through the left and relayed the ball to Firhan Ashari who manoeuvred brilliantly to sneak it past goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex to give the host a 1-0 lead.
The early setback did little to ruffle New Zealand feathers as they came back in search for the equaliser. Nick Wilson weaved past four defenders in the 22nd minute before slotting the ball past Hafizuddin and was back to score his second goal in the 34th minute to give the defending champions a 2-1 lead via a field goal.
Celebrations went wild as Malaysian captain Razie Rahim scored the equaliser from a 44th minute penalty corner and on 48th minute Shahril Saabah converted Malaysia’s third penalty corner to give his side a comfortable 3-2 lead over New Zealand for the first time.
New Zealand subsequently earned six consecutive penalty corners between the 54th 60 56th minutes with the clock ticking away and seven minutes remaining to the end. Simon Child made good use of it to save New Zealand the blushes to force a 3-3 draw.
“Considering all factors, I am very satisfied with the way my boys played. Even the three players who were down with fever played beyond their expectations,” Malaysian head coach Stephen van Huizen said at a post-match press conference.
“We made some mistakes but the players came back well. One point in this game is well deserved and we will let the players recover from this tough encounter before thinking of our match against Japan,” he added.
Arch rivals India and Pakistan also made brilliant starts against Japan and Canada respectively in the opening day.
The Indians clawed back from a 17th minute Kenji Kitazato penalty corner goal to carve a 2-1 victory over the Japanese , ranked World No 16, while five-time Sultan Azlan Shah Cup champions Pakistanis edged Canada 3-1.
Japan’s Suguru Hoshi in action against India in the opening day of the
25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia on Wednesday. India won 2-1.
Drag-flick specialist Harmanpreet Singh, who fired nine penalty corner goals in his maiden trip to Malaysia by featuring in the 2014 Sultan of Johor Cup and returned a year later to score 15 goals in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan, showed his pedigree once again by knocking home a penalty corner in the 25th minute for the equaliser.
India went 2-1 ahead two minutes into the third quarter through a field goal from team captain Sardar Singh who was named Man of the Match.
However, despite a clear dominance from India in the third and fourth quarters, the Japanese stood their ground but it was good enough for India’s head coach Roelant Ottomans to make a winning start.
India suffered an early blow four hours before start of their match against Japan when they received news that playmaker Manpreet Singh’s father passed away in India. He boarded a flight back home from Kuala Lumpur later in the evening.
Pakistan, ranked 10 in the world, last played the 14-ranked Canadians at the 2010 World Cup but showed their motley fans here today that they belong to the elite group by giving all their best and were a far more enterprising side under the scorching heat.
After a low-key start, Rizwan Ali had a great chance to put his side ahead with just Canadian goalkeeper David Carter in his way but was slow to react and defender Scott Tupper quickly cleared the ball away for any possible danger.
Muhamad Arslan Qadir, however, ended Pakistan’s agony in search for the opening goal by putting his side ahead in the 27th minute from a field goal and came back moments later to go 2-0 up via a penalty corner. The Canadians, however, clawed back in the 48th minute as Richard Hildreth pounced on a cross from Matthew Sarmento into an open goal.
Pakistan earned their second penalty corner in the 52nd minute and Muhammad Arshad executed it well as the five-time champions celebrated a well deserved victory after a long absence from the international arena.
Pakistan head coach, Muhammad Khawaja Junaid, said: “We have to execute good hockey and the players did well today. It was a good start although we last played Canada some many years ago. I think if we continue this kind of momentum we should be among the top teams here.”
“If we look into the teams competing here Pakistan is the ‘weakest’ since we did not qualify for the Olympics and is ranked 10 in the world. So we have a lot of catching up to do and this tournament is good for the younger players to gain the much needed experience,” said Khawaja.
Pakistan next faces defending champions New Zealand on Saturday.
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