The second but last day of pool play at the Samsung Champions Trophy in Kuala Lumpur started off with another rain delay, pushing all matches back by one hour. When the match day finally got underway, Australia drew with the Netherlands, Pakistan and Korea parted ways with the same result, Spain dispatched Britain, and Germany defeated Malaysia.
Delayed by an hour due to heavy rainfall, the day started with a milestone encounter as the Netherlands and Australia lined up for the 500th match in the 29 year Champions Trophy history. In a fiercely disputed match, it was the Dutch who got on the scoreboard first with Jeroen Hertzberger´s first international goal.
Australia who scored next through Russell Ford, but Oranje pulled even again when Taeke Taekema sunk a penalty corner, only to see the Kookaburras reply with an Eddie Ockenden goal. The Dutch reclaimed the lead four minutes into the half and almost held on to it, to be denied by Luke Doerner with seven minutes to go. Despite advantages, Holland thus had to split the points, a fact that makes it highly unlikely they will be able to reach the final.
Next up were Pakistan and Korea. Played in difficult conditions due to the heavy rainfall that made the pitch slow and soaked the players, Korea dominated the proceedings in the first half, but managed only one goal when Jong Ho Seo finished off an attack by beating Salman Akbar. Pakistan on the other side took advantage of their only serious scoring opportunity when Shakeel Abbasi netted in the 26th minute.
In the second half, Korea pulled away with goals from Hyo Sik You and penalty corner ace Jong Hyun Jang but caved in late in the match, allowing Pakistan to pull level with goals from Waqas Sharif and Kashif Ali. Korea had most of the play in the match but in the end could not avoid dropping points against a spirited Pakistani side who showed great character, coming back from two down in a difficult match. Nonetheless, Korea are in the best position of the four contenders in the race to join Germany in the final.
On pitch 2, Spain and Great Britain also had a rain-soaked encounter. In a match slowed down considerably by the conditions, the Brits could never really challenge the Spanish, who finally displayed some of their skills.
A double-hit with goals in the 22nd and 24th minute by Ramon Alegre and Santi Freixa brought them a 2-0 halftime advantage, and adding a fantastic goal in the 46th minute as Ramon Alegre dove in to tip a superbly tempered pass from Edi Tubau over the line, the Spanish piled on two more through Edu Arbos and Victor Sojo for the 5-0 final scoreline.
Great Britain tried their best today but simply could not keep up with the unleashed Spaniards. They only had two shots on goal in the whole match, while the Spaniards displayed supreme efficiency, converting both their penalty corners, and scoring 5 times from a total of nine attempts.
The day ended with Malaysia taking on Germany. Table leaders Germany struggled in the first half to establish their game against the fast and dynamic Malaysians, but could rely on penalty corner specialist Florian Keller who put away two penalty corners for a relatively comfortable 2-0 half-time lead.
In the second half, the Germans´ very first attack yielded another goal, as Matthias Witthaus scored his fifth goal of the competition, but the safety of the three goal lead only gave the Germans a false sense of security. The hosts engineered a spectacular comeback in the remainder of the second half, with late goals from Selvaraju Sandrakasi and Ismail Abu.
Malaysia also had the opportunity to win another point today, but eventually the calm and experience of the World Champions prevented them from giving points away. Germany won 3-2, and thus secured their place in Sunday´s final early.
Before the last round of pool play, Germany are thus untouchable at the top of the table with 16 points. Korea, 2nd on 11 points, Australia, 3rd on 10, the Netherlands, 4th on 9, and Spain, 5th on 8 points, all still have the chance to reach the final, depending on the combination of tomorrow´s result, while Malaysia are definitely in the 7th/8th place play-off. Pakistan are definitely in the bottom half of the ranking, with tomorrow´s matches deciding whether it will be the 5th/6th or 7th/8th play-off for them, whereas Great Britain retain the mathematical possibility to reach the final if they defeat Korea by a high enough margin while the Netherlands and Spain both lose.
The Samsung Champions Trophy Kuala Lumpur 2007 continues on Saturday with the final four pool matches that see the Malaysian hosts take on Spain, the Netherlands battle Pakistan, Great Britain step up to Korea, and Australia and Germany wrap up pool play.
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