Australia and Malaysia reached the final of the Azlan Shah tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia on Friday. Malaysia beat India 2-1 in what was a cliff-hanger of a match between the hosts and last years’ bronze winners. India will now have to fight for a bronze medal again. Australia extended their supremacy over Asian Games gold medallists Korea scripting a 6-2 win to enter the final of the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup eight-nation hockey tournament.
The young Indian team, led by a new captain and a new coach, had so far played more then what was expected of them but the semifinals were, as expected, an altogether different ball game and the team buckled under pressure.
India had won a bronze medal in the last edition of the championship, showing signs of revival for the game in the country, before touching new low, including the disaster in Asian Games from where it returned empty-handed for the first time.
Meanwhile, Olympic champions Australia extended their supremacy over Asian Games gold medallists Korea scripting a 6-2 win to enter the final of the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup eight-nation hockey tournament.
It was Australia’s fourth consecutive entry into the final of this tournament that they have won as many times and a repeat of last year` World Cup semi-final that the Aussies had won 4-2.
Goals by Desmond Abbot (9th, 69th), Andrew Smith (22nd), Liam Deyoung (37th), Eli Matheson (51st) and Grant Schubert (60th) set up the Aussie victory while Korean replies came from Jeong Yun Sang (11th) and Lee Sung Min (57th).
As the score line suggested, the Australians were a far superior side as they played a brilliant tactical game to check the Koreans whose shaky defence on the night was cruelly exposed their ruthless opponents.
Barring the lone penalty corner they conceded, the Australians maintained a vice-like grip on the first-half proceedings that had the Koreans pinned in their own half.
The Australians were superbly organised in the midfield where they had the Korean schemers under close scrutiny. Consequently, the Koreans could barely make a pass before an Australian was on the ball.
The scoring began in the ninth minute when Abbott swept home a clearance by goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho who had blocked Deyoung's try off a Bevan George free-hit.
The Koreans retaliated and forced a penalty corner against the run of play with Sang finding the net with a powerful drag-flick for the equaliser in the 11th.
The Aussies kept up the pressure and past the 22nd, Smith completed a slick set-piece move that saw Mathew Wells quickly taking a free-hit from outside the circle and relaying to Schubert who in turn squared it to Smith.
The reverse woke up the Koreans and earned a free-hit on top of the circle. Kim Chul hit the ball into the circle where Yoon Sung Hoon put his stick out for a deflection. As the ball slammed into the boards, umpire Paramjit (Malaysia) signalled a long corner for Korea. Hoon claimed he had got a touch and as such a goal be awarded to Korea.
There was a hold-up as the Koreans trooped off to their bench on the sideline even as the replays of the incident were played on the giant screen. Apparently, the evidence was inconclusive and a few minutes later, the Koreans returned to the pitch to take the long corner with about two minutes left to half-time.
On resumption, the Aussies struck early when Deyoung went in on a Hammond free-hit for the third goal that highlighted some poor defending by the Koreans.
Worse was to follow for the Asian champions as their defenders allowed Matheson a free run from the left and the Aussie forward slipped the ball past the goalkeeper to give his team a 4-1 lead.
The die-hard Koreans took these blows on their chin and went on the attack, forcing a series of penalty corners and Min finally found the boards from the fifth.
However, the Aussies were far from done as they added two more goals in the last 10 minutes through Schubert after a good run from Smith and then Abbott who let fly from top of the circle.
Source: Azlan Shah tournament.
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