Johor Baru (2 Nov, 2016): Japan defied all odds and clawed back in the Sultan of Johor Cup by taking the scalp of defending champions England 2-1 at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru on Wednesday.
It was the Japanese second win following a 4-1 victory over New Zealand a day earlier after suffering a 0-6 drubbing in the hands of Australia in the SOJC opening match on Oct 30.
Japan mounted several attacks into England territory and missed penalty corners in the fourth and sixth minutes. The Englishmen also had their chances but failed to make anything out of it.
The first breakthrough for Japan came in the 38th minute when Koyo Kameyama hit wide despite taking the ball past three defenders into the semi-circle. The goals kept flowing in the 44th minute through Koji Yamasaki.
England captain James Gall scored the equalizer from open play in the 65th minute but Yamasaki, who scored two goals against New Zealand, scored within just two minutes left.
“I did not expect that playing under the heat would give us an advantage, but after losing to Australia, I told my players to change the way they think. I needed my players to focus and not pay too much attention to the strength of the opponents,,” said Japan coach Kyoichi Nagaya, who expects a tough match against Malaysia on Friday next.
England coach Jon Bleby said: “Japan played well and I was impressed actually. I was disappointed to concede … We need to create and convert more chances.”
Pakistan humbled Malaysia 4-1 to stay in contention for Sunday’s final, thus ending Malaysia’s chances of competing for the trophy
“We tried very hard but there were mistakes, especially second and third goal. We gave the ball away. Possibly the players are tired, especially those who came from Kuantan,” said Malaysian head coach Wallace Tan.
Pakistan took a 2-0 lead via Abu Mahmood’s sixth minute penalty corner and Muhammad Dilber’s 20th minute strike from open play.
Malaysia responded in the 25th minute through Najmi Farizal Jazlan’s penalty corner but Shah Irshad restored the two goal advantage in the 30th minute. Pakistan piled more misery on the hosts through Ullah Sami in the 46th minute.
“There was nothing special from us. We knew Malaysia is a good side at their home ground. We were mentally prepared and expected things to be physical. We proved we are fit today,” said Tahir Zaman.
“This tournament is full of surprises, but we are focused and keen on making the final. The match against Australia is crucial. We have to ability to beat them.”
Australia topped the table standings with a 9-1 victory over New zealand. The Kiwis scored first through Sam Lane’s penalty corner conversion in the ninth minute but Max Hendry equalized in the 20th minute and there was no looking back for the Australians.