Hong Kong (19 Nov, 2016): Bangladesh’s mission of a third consecutive Men’s AHF Cup got off to a rousing start following a 4-2 victory over host Hong Kong at the King’s Park Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
The 2008 (Singapore) and 2012 (Thailand) champions were right on track in Group A of this fifth edition of the coveted AHF Cup encounter as defender Mamunur Rahman Chayan and skipper Russel Mahmud Jimmy scored a brace each to give Bangladesh three points .
Mamunur, a drag-flick specialist, put Bangladesh ahead in the 22nd minute by converting a penalty corner and then returned three minutes later to double the score from another penalty corner.
Russel further widened the scoreline to 3-0 by converting a penalty stroke in the 33rd minute but Tsang Kin Kan replied for Hong Kong with a penalty corner strike two minutes later and Siu Chung Ming scored from a field goal in the 42nd minute to bring some form of cheer and hope for the host who reduced the deficit to 2-3.
But the two-time champions had the final say through Russel’s field goal in the 52nd minute as Bangladesh celebrated a much needed 4-2 victory here. Bangladesh will next play Chinese Taipei on Monday (Nov 21) and Macau in their last group match on Wednesday (Nov 23).
Chinese Taipei also made a brilliant start, defeating Macau 2-0 today with goals from Li An-Szu (33rd minute) and Chang Chia-Ming in the 41st minute via penalty corner.
Two Group B matches are scheduled on Sunday with Singapore taking on Thailand and Sri Lanka plays Uzbekistan. The Sri Lankans will, among others, be led by the experience Nalantha de Silva, Sandaruwan Priyalanka, veteran forward Mohammed Mulafer and former captain Thusith Ratnasiri.
Singapore’s newly appointed national coach, K. Rajan, has predicted a top-four finish in the 5th Men’s AHF Cup and a win over Thailand by his young squad on Sunday would be a tremendous boost to the republic.
“Most of our players are young. I’ve calculated the average age is 20 years and 8 months,” said Rajan, a former Malaysian national player. “While we don’t have the depth and experience from senior players who are currently in National Service and with other commitments, it is good experience for the juniors in preparation for the South East Asian Games.”
“We’ll take it game by game and our ultimate goal is to get into the semi-finals or a fourth spot at least. It is not a warm up match for the younger ones, as it (the AHF Cup) is to give them game exposure in International tournament and more matches under our belt,” he added.
Since its inception in 1997, the AHF Cup serves as a qualifier for the elite Asia Cup where the top four teams of the AHF Cup will be eligible to challenge amongst the first-tier of Asian hockey nations. It also provides valuable opportunities for the second tier Asian teams to participate in international tournaments apart from the Asian Games and Asia Cup.