Great Britain enthralled fans to defeat World champions Australia 4-3 in the final of the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to lift the title for the first time as Great Britain and the second time in 23 years a British side won the title as it was England that won in 1994.
” It was just a fantastic win for us tonight. I could not have asked for a better deal that this as we head towards the World League Semi-finals in June,” said Bobby Crutchley the GB coach, “I think the turning point was who is going to score first after we took the 2-1 lead. “That would make a lot of difference and we took our chances very well. “Unlike the group match, we struck to our plans today and the players were motivated to change things around. “The last three minutes of play have been nervy experience as we did not get a penalty corner and Australia was pressing on. It could have been a nail-biting moment had the score been equal. “In the last four to five weeks we had increased our work rate for the Azlan Shah Cup as we faced top rated teams. “Tonight was just a memorable win and great day for Great Britain.”
Great Britain, mesmerised Australia with an attacking game in the first quarter, not giving the Kookaburras room to orchestrate and in the process charted their own progress towards the coveted trophy. Alan Forsyth broke the deadlock for Great Britain in the 8th minute with a field goal beyond the reach of goalkeeper Andrew Charter and David Goodfield plugged in the second via a penalty corner three minutes later. The Australians, waited till the 28th minute as Eddie Ockenden reduced the deficit. Great Britain went 3-1 up in the 33rd minute with a Ollie Willars strike but the Kookaburras were back on track to close the gap in the very next minute as Dylan Wotherspoon laid a perfect pass to Joshua Pollard who scored with a clinical touch to reduce it to 3-2. However,Great Britain clawed into the two goal lead with the fourth goal in the 43rd minute through Goodfield.
Australia closed in 4-3 from a Wotherspoon goal in 48th minute. ” We created enough chances against Great Britain and had a couple of penalty corners. GB played a good game today, so did we, said Australian coach Colin Batch. “They plucked the goals early and we were not far behind in chasing those goals. I am a little disappointed but we will look into this and get back.” Earlier India took bronze as they defeated New Zealand with two goals from Rupinder Pal Singh en route to a 4-0 win. It was their seventh bronze medal in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
” Our defence was very good today. We did not give away any penalty corner to New Zealand. But there are lessons we learned and one of them according to our statistics is that we should have scored more goals in this tournament,” said Indian coach Roelant Oltmans. ” I don’t believe in negatives. I look at positives such as how we can improve in executions of penalty corners and in other areas to move forward. ” We tried out some variables.
We are playing in tournaments in Germany, London and Holland after this. “And will gather all the information needed to prepare for the World League Final held later year.” It was in the 17th minute that India broke the deadlock through their first penalty corner converted by Rupinder Pal Singh. Rupinder once again scored with another low drive to the right of Joyce to give the Asian champions a comfortable two-goal lead going into the third quarter. The third goal came in the 48th minute from a cleverly orchestrated move by Chinglensana Kangujam who relayed the ball to Mandeep Singh. With two Black Sticks defenders lurking in front, Mandeep placed the ball to the direction of Sunil Sowmarpet who gathered it and rolled past Joyce.
With four minutes remaining Talwinder Singh increased the lead to 4-0 with a field goal. Darren Smith , the Kiwis coach was happy with their progress in the tournament. “We came to win a medal and unfortunately missed out on it. Overall it has been a good tournament for us with a group of young players who could do with the experience,” said Darren. “India was on top of us today and it was a day when we could not get going. They (India) defended well and we did all we could to make some breakthroughs.” In the first match of the day , Malaysia registered a 3-1 victory over Japan to finish fifth.
Stephen van Huizen was elated with the win. “We are happy to end with a win. It is part of our preparation for the World League Semi-finals,” said Stephen. “There were times we were slow in getting off the mark in the D and these are areas we will look to improve before going to London. “There is no need to push the panic button. We will look to cover areas in which we showed weakness and improve it. “We have between 5-6 weeks to work on it. In London we will be playing friendly matches against Canada and the English Development Squad and we hope to play a few more matches against club sides. “Going into Round 3 we will emphasise on improving our power and speed.”
The match started off on a slow pace and the host to dominated the first half by taking a 2-0 lead. Haziq Samsul scored the opening goal in the eighth minute and three minutes later Firhan Ashaari wmade it 2-0. The Japanese reduced the deficit through Kaito Tanaka in the 28th minute. However Malaysia widened the lead to 3-1 from their sixth penalty corner, courtesy of a Faizal Saari drag-flick. Takahiko Yamabori the Japanese coach said they had much to learn. “The players lacked the mental strength in this game against Malaysia today than they did against Australia,” said Yamabori. “They did not have the mental power to get back; perhaps they were tired after playing a tough match against the Australians. “We will go back to Japan and have a 14-day training camp. There may be some changes to the squad before we go to Johannesburg for the World League Semi-final. “On the whole, I am very happy with how we performed here but were just unlucky not to have scored when we should have to win matches”