Ipoh, Malaysia (12 April, 2016): India lifted their own game by leaps and bounds to humble arch rivals Pakistan 5-1 with a brace from SV Sunil to move up the ladder alongside world champions Australia in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh today.
This was India’s biggest win in six years ever since their 7-4 victory against Pakistan in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. They were a far more organised side and pulverised their opponents as quickly as they got off in this match played before dusk.
Canada also drew from all its reserves to claw back from a goal down to hold Malaysia to a 2-2 draw in front of 10,000 fans who were very much expecting a Malaysian victory.
Veteran Jamie Dwyer turn the tables on the Kiwis with a 22nd minute goal as the World No 1 celebrated a 1-0 victory over the defending champions. This victory gave the Kookaburras a giant leap forward and closer to Saturday’s final.
All the Australians need to do now is demolish the Japanese wall on Wednesday to confirm their position and even a draw against the Canadians in their last match on Friday would still be good enough.
The Aussies maintained an unbeaten record of four straight wins and pooled 12 points while India moved up to second in the standings on nine points after today’s big win over Pakistan, pushing New Zealand into third spot on eight points followed by Canada (5), Malaysia (5), Pakistan (3) and Japan (0).
The match started on a fast and furious pace as both teams threw caution to the wind. After three failed penalty corner attempts, the Aussies got it right in the fourth minute with the 37-year-old Dwyer nailed it from a field goal. The Kiwis created several chances but failed to find the mark as Hugo Inglis and Kane Russell missed the mark.
Australian head coach, Graham Reid, said: “We played in pretty tough conditions today. Australia played well in the first half and got some return from it. In the second half, we threw the ball away a little. It was a fairly even competition today. This tournament is all about exploration and trying different things. Some worked, some didn’t.”
Mark Knowles, with 279 international caps under his belt, added: “Both teams suffered under the tough conditions. We just had to find ways to give our best but the conditions did not help at all. But this tournament is a really good test before the Olympics. New Zealand played well today and they had their opportunities too.”
The Indians made the best of the atmosphere and took advantage of superb clinical finishing’s by their forwards which resulted in four field goals. India took the lead in the 3rd minute through Manpreet Singh who weaved his way into the semi-circle from the left and blasted a powerful reverse stick shot past goalkeeper Imran Butt.
But the Pakistanis, winners of the Cup three times, clawed back to level four minutes later through skipper Muhammad Irfan’s penalty corner. Sadly, Pakistan never really got back as quickly as they would want to as India went on a rampage in quick sessions.
Sunil was spot on after receiving a pass from Manpreet after 10 minutes to put India 2-1 ahead and returned in the 41st minute to finish off a brilliant move to make it 3-1 while Talwinder Singh pounced on a poor defensive clearance by Muhammad Rizwan for the fourth goal and Rupinderpal Singh scripted the fifth from penalty corner.
India’s victory would have been bigger had Rupinderpal converted a penalty stroke in the 55th minute and a deflection into the net by Ramandeep Singh in the 69th was disallowed after the umpire initially blew for a goal.
Despite all their efforts, the Pakistanis could never get back into the game and win this match, not when the Indians were on top of their game. India plays New Zealand on Wednesday and a last match of the round-robin league against Malaysia on Friday.
In the Malaysia-Canada encounter, the Canadians opened accounts through team captain Scott Tupper from a penalty corner in the 21st minute which caught goalkeeper Hafizzuddin Othman off guard.
Malaysia played a set piece in their fourth penalty corner as Razie Rahim relayed the ball to Shahril Saabah who had the easiest of tasks to level score at 1-1 in the 29th minute and in the third quarter the Malaysian were up 2-1.
The move was started by Izad Jamaluddin from outside the semi-circle, who relayed to ball to Shahril and swept the ball across the Canadian goalmouth only for Nabil Fikri to deflect it past goalkeeper Antoni Kindler.
However, a lapse in concentration saw Canada equalise 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter through Mathew Guest. It was a touch and go affair after this with the Canadians and Malaysians coming close to score.
Malaysia’s head coach Stephen van Huizen was not too happy with the draw when he said: “I do not think that the Canadians are happy either. This is a match we had targeted to win and we tried hard in the last quarter. But that is the result we got. It is a good match in patches and we are not unduly worried about their robust play
“You have to expect this kind of game against such teams and learn to handle it. We have two tough matches ahead against Asian rivals Pakistan (Wednesday) and India (Friday). We will aim for a win but both teams always raise their game level when playing us,” added van Huizen at a post-match press conference.
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