Australia lift the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

Australia produced a brilliant performance

17 April 2016
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Ipoh, Malaysia (16 April, 2016): World champions Australia produced a brilliant performance following a 4-0 victory as India suffered another round of battering to lift the 25th Silver Jubilee Sultan Azlan Shah in Ipoh today.

Though the Indians showed glimpses of brilliance midway in this energy-sapping match in front of 8,000 fans, the night did belong to the Kookaburras who won the title for the ninth time since the tournament was founded in 1983 by the late HRH Sultan Azlan Shah, the 34th Ruler of the State of Perak and ninth King of Malaysia.

The late HRH Sultan Azlan Shah was also President of the Asian Hockey Federation and a member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Executive Board.

It was a glorious moment for the Australians when team captain Mark Knowles received the Cup from the Ruler of the state of Perak, HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah amid backdrop of a colourful display of fireworks.

In the third-fourth placing match played earlier, Malaysia threw away a 3-2 lead by allowing defending champions New Zealand to score the equaliser with just one minute remaining to the end and then surrendered the bronze medal 5-4 in penalty shoot-out.

It was yet another case of too near and yet so far for the hosts who have had a merry go round adventure in this 25th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. The malady of giving away easy goals after taking the lead seems not to go away.

India had a fair share of circle penetration and gave the Aussies a good challenge in the first quarter but could not sustain the pressure going into the second quarter. While goalkeeper Andrew Carter proved to be a stumbling block for the Indians, the Aussie forwards were far more marauding and enterprising on the opposite end.

Australia, who had humbled India 5-1 in the round-robin league stage last week, broke the deadlock in the 25th minute through Craig Thomas and he was back five minutes into the third quarter to put his side 2-0 ahead.

India, however, come close in search for the equaliser at the start of the third quarter but Ramandeep Singh’s attempt was padded away by Andrew Charter.

Matt Gohdes scored the third (43rd) and fourth (57th) goals which completely snuffed away any hope the Indians had of coming back into the game.

For the Malaysians, it was yet another case of too near and yet so far as they endured a merry go round adventure in this 25th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. The malady of giving away easy goals after taking the lead seems not to go away.

The Malaysians also held the Black Sticks to a 3-3 draw in the round-robin stage. Stephen van Huizen’s boys also led 2-1 against Canada before closing the day with a 2-2 draw. However, on a far more positive note, the Malaysians gave a brilliant performance with aggression and tenacity in one their best moments here despite the defeat.

It was also a transformed act from the 6-1 drubbing they received from India just a day earlier much to the delight of the fans that have never turned their back on the Malaysian team even in embarrassing defeats.

“After a hard game against India, we actually showed character against New Zealand, I am actually very disappointed with the boys. We deserved the third spot,” said van Huizen, the Malaysian team head coach.

“But let’s look at the positive side. Overall our performance was not that bad in the tournament. The players played remarkably well in some matches and were outplayed against Australia (1-5) and India (1-5). But against New Zealand today we played well but it was just unfortunate we could not hold on as New Zealand pressured the defence and got the two goals,” added Van Huizen.

Malaysia started off brilliantly picking up two goals in the first quarter. A great effort from Ramadan Rosli gave Malaysia a 7thminute lead. He made a darting run into the semi-circle, beating the Kiwi defenders with his excellent stick-work, before unleashing a reverse stick shot that beat Devon Manchester at far post.

Four minutes later, it was another well worked field goal from Fitri Saari who turned the ball past Manchester from an acute angle.

The Black Sticks, however, crept back into the game as Malaysia began to lose concentration and scored off their first attempt on target in the 27th minute. A defensive error in the penalty area allowed Hayden Phillips through and the Kiwi blasted the ball high into the roof. There was nothing goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman could do and in the 43rd minute, Kane Russell equalised from a penalty corner, their first in the game.

The Malaysians were back on top in the very next minute as Shahril Saabah packed the ball into the net from close range after picking a pass from Fitri. The Kiwis came in waves in the final quarter and were awarded a fourth penalty corner in the 59th minute which Russell was spot on to force the game into shoot-out.

“To be honest, we didn’t start well at all. After the third quarter, we dominated large periods of the game and we got better and better. When we were losing 2-0, we knew we could mount a fight back against the Malaysians,” said New Zealand coach Colin Batch. “I am happy with this attitude of self belief and we fought hard all the way.”

Pakistan defeated Canada 3-1 to finish fifth. The Pakistanis had also beaten their Rio Olympic-bound rivals by the same margin in their opening encounter last week.

Fareed Ahmed picked up a late pass from Muhammad Arslan Qadir to beat Antoni Kindler at the far post in the 11th minute and Ajaz Ahmad dived to deflect a cross by teammate Tasawar Abbas to make it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

In the third quarter Canada stepped up their game and forced four penalty corners but each time was stopped in his tracks by goalkeeper Imran Butt, who was also adjudged Man of the Match. Imran was, however, beaten in the 51st minute by Iain Smythe who had deflected the ball into goal from a Taylor Curran pass.

But any thoughts of a fightback from the Canadians were quickly put to a rest in the 57th minute. Pakistan earned a penalty corner and Muhammad Arshad’s flick had Antoni Kindler beaten all the way.

“It was nice to finish on a positive note. We had a slow start but we gradually improved in the tournament. We will now go back home and improve on our weaknesses,” said Imran as the Pakistanis now gear up for the World Cup qualifiers.

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Australian hockey team players pose with the trophy after defeating India during the final match of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah
Australian hockey team players pose with the trophy after defeating India during the final match of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah
Australia's Thomas Craig (R) reacts after scoring a goal against India during the final match of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah
Australia's Thomas Craig (R) reacts after scoring a goal against India during the final match of the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah
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