The opening game on day 3 of the Sultan of Johor Cup was always going be and important game for both participants, defending Champions Great Britain and Australia. Following Great Britain’s loss to Japan, it takes on far greater importance for Great Britain as they had to topple the unbeaten Australians to have a chance of defending their title and becoming the first team to win the prestigious Cup three times in succession.
Australia took the lead in the 2nd minute after good work by Jayden Atkinson saw him burst into the circle slip a pass to Jack Holland who unselfishly laid it back to Cooper Burns who fired home his fifth goal of the tournament.
Then thunder and lightning along with torrential rain took centre stage and the game was delayed for an hour.
In the 17th minute the defending Champions equalized through Ellis Robson, however they could not hang on to that lead until half time as Josh Brooks restored Australia’s advantage.
It was Brooks who crafted Australia’s sealer. Running back into his own half he stole possession from Alex Chihota, burst over the halfway line and carried the ball into the circle before setting up Liam Hart to fire home.
Great Britain pressed in the dying minutes but could not find a way through the Australian defence and Jed Snowden in goal. The final score of 3-1 means Australia is still unbeaten and Great Britain have suffered two consecutive defeats.
Japan showed great discipline in their victory over Great Britain and were now going to need that same resolve against an Indian side still smarting from their 5-4 loss to South Africa. Whereas India had looked a slick cohesive unit against Malaysia, against South Africa that teamwork was absent.
India having lost the last two finals came to Johor Bahru with the goal of winning their third Cup, a slip up against Japan they knew would put that dream in jeopardy, especially as they still have to play Great Britain and Australia.
In 2019 Japan defeated India at this competition, could they do it again?
If they were they were going to have to come from behind after their Captain Uttam Singh struck a powerful shot from the edge of the circle that gave India the lead in the third minute.
Rohit doubled that lead in the 12th minute from a penalty corner before Japan pulled a goal back through captain Ikumi Saeki from a penalty corner at the end of the first quarter.
In the 24th minute Johnson Purty unleashed a thunderbolt to score his first goal and India’s third.
The second half started perfectly for India when Amanadeep scored a minute after the restart. Japan pressed continually, and never stopped running but good defence by India and stray passes when it mattered meant their opportunities were limited.
In the 51st minute Amandeep Lakra flicked at pace and converted India’s third penalty corner and confirmed victory at 5-1.
Before the competition commenced the last match on day three would have been one that Malaysia fans would have expected to win, but following South Africa’s spirited and deserved win over India many now feared that the hosts were facing the prospect of yet another loss.
It would all come down to the work done by Malaysia’s coaching staff on the rest day to lift both their players spirits and belief.
Both teams knew with the results of the other games how important this game was in terms of determining where they may finish after the round robin stage. A cautious first quarter resulted in no goals but Govender in goal for South Africa made a sharp save from Danish Aiman and Rafaizul denied Neethling with a double save.
In the second quarter South Africa opened the scoring from a penalty corner converted by Calvin Davis. A minute later Muhammad Mamat converted a PC for Malaysia to pull the level.
Malaysia came out for the second half with plenty of purpose and urgency but were caught out by a hit into the circle by Calvin David which found the unmarked Marvin Simons who deflected it home to give South Africa the lead.
IN the final quarter South Africa’s captain leapt high in the air to bring down an overhead pass on the right-hand side of the pitch, he then surged along the baseline before feeding Cameron Le Forrestier who fired home his fourth goal of the tournament in three games to seal the victory for South Africa.