Pool A at the Argentina Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Quilmes was dominated by the Asian representatives as Jang Jong Hyun gave Korea a win over Canada with two penalty corner strikes and Malaysia sunk four with no reply from Poland. In Pool B, South Africa split points with Japan, and the home team opened their campaign with a hard-earned victory over Ireland.
Korea v Canada 2-0 (1-0): Jang Jong Hyun sinks Canada with a double
In the first match of the event, Korea met with Canada, and the top-ranked Asians came out blazing, putting high pressure on their Canadian opponents from the start. An early penalty stroke opportunity was the consequence, but Jang Jong Hyun couldn't do more than put a cracking ball onto the crossbar.
As time went on, Canada got into the match better, and was able to create a few good opportunities, but they lacked the lucky last touch to make it count. Korea on the other hand took advantage of their first and only first half penalty corner to take the lead as Jang Jong Hyun sunk a penalty corner.
After the re-start, play slowed down slightly as both teams started to feel the effects of the heat and sun, but it was still an open battle for the first three points of the event. Jang Jong Hyun made good use of a penalty corner opportunity halfway through the second 35 minutes with a flick to the top right for his second goal of the day.
Towards the end of the second half, Korea shifted up a gear and created a number of further opportunities that should have seen them score further goals, but they couldn't convert any of them - an inefficiency that may well come back to haunt them against other teams in this event.
Anthony Farry (Coach Canada): “I think we’ve played a good match even though we have young players. We’ve learned a lot from this match. We have a reasonable knowledge of the other teams, but this is the start of a new stage after the Olympics, and we are trying different things and bringing new players in as well. We know it will be tough to make the finals, but we want to progress every game."
Shin Seok Kyon (Coach Korea): "It was a successful match for us. After London we changed many players, and we are trying young ones who are just gaining experience and did an excellent job putting pressure on Canada’s players."
Malaysia v Poland 4-0 (2-0): Paul Revington's men leave Poland without a chance
In the match between Malaysia and Poland, the Malaysians laid down their claim for the match early, as Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim coverted a penalty corner in the 4th minute. Poland fought the well-playing Malaysians team all the way but couldn't challenge the team ranked 6 spots above them.
In a fiercely contested and rather physical 70 minutes, Malaysia was the more energetic and better organized team today, dominaing the proceedings for much of the match.
After Abd Rahim's early penalty corner, it was Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor who put away the other first half counter for the Malaysians, while in the second half, the winners benefitted from an own goal by the Polish team to reach the 3-0 scoreline. A late penalty corner yielded Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim's second goal of the day and established a 4-0 final score that was a fair reflection ofthe encounter.
Paul Revington (Coach Malaysia): “We have young players and they played very well today. Today’s game was our first opportunity to play as a team. We know that today we had a tough opponent and that the game would be competitive."
Karol Sniezek (POL Coach): “It was tough game. The first match is really important because a good result is necessary to motivate the team. That’s why I congratulate Malaysia on winning the game. They started in a good way. Our goal is of course to classify for the Champions Trophy, and like everybody knows, the first three games are not so important. Even if you finish your pool in 4th place, you can go on to the semi-finals. The chances to classify are open, and we want to improve our game match by match."
South Africa v Japan 4-4 (2-1): Split points in a goalfest
The encounter between South Africa and Japan was the most closely contested match in the event so far, and a rollercoaster ride as Japan took an early lead to then see South Africa run away scoring four goals in a row, but pull back with three goals in the second half.
The match had barely started when Toshiro Tachibana scored Japan's first goal, picking up a long overhead ball far up the field to lob it over Jacques Le Roux in the Southafrican goal. Needing a while to recover it took South Africa twenty minutes to get on the scoreboard, only to then score four in twenty minutes.
The four Southafrican goals included goals from Nicholas Gonsalves and veteran Lloyd Norris-Jones, but also two from plaers who had been uncapped before this event, Grant Glutz and Ignatious Malgraff who thus celebrated their initiation in style.
But just when it looked like the match was firmly in the hand of the Africans, Japan started hitting back. Kazuhiro Tsubouchi reduced the disadvantage with a goal in the 47th minute, followed by Toshiro Tachibana's second penalty corner conversion of the day, minimizing the South Africans' lead. With five minutes remaining, Katsuyoshi Nagasawa sunk another penalty corner for his team for the 4-4 equalizer.
Tim Drummond had a fabulous opportunity for the winning goal late in the match, but the diagonal shot across the circle crashed into the left post. The clock ticked down with both teams anxiously pushing for the winner but to no avail: South Africa and Japan split points on day 1 with a 4-4 draw.
Argentina v Ireland 4-3 (2-2): Home team books three points in nailbiter
The home team's first match in the Argentina Hockey Champions Challenge 1 was expected to be a close affair, and the first half hour thus came as an unpleasant surprise to the home crowd as Ireland pulled away with a two goal advantage.
John Jermyn had opened the scoring, celebrating his 150th cap with a penalty stroke goal, followed by a Timmy Cockram penalty corner conversion that pushed the scoreline to 2-0. Argentina scrambled to avoid losing track but soon started gaining traction again when young star Gonzalo Peillat sunk a penalty corner and Lucas Vila scored a field goal in quick succession.
The teams went into halftime at 2-2, but Argentina had pried the door open again and was not about to let go. Dominating play over long stretches of time, the hosts added 2 more goals with the same authors, as Peillat converted another penalty corner and Lucas Vila scored another field goal with only thre minutes left.
Ireland fought hard to turn the match back around but in the second half, Argentina was the better team, showing off some lovely hockey skills. Michael Watt managed another goal for Ireland in the final minute of the match, but couldn't void the defeat, as the home crowd cheered their team's opening victory.
Franco Nicola (Coach Argentina): “I think it was a good and even match. Irland played very well, and put pressure on Argentina’s midfield. They got their first and second goal while we were playing quite badly and making many mistakes. But the team realised hat was happening and started to grow, and with attitude could come back into the game. We started to create opportunities and in the second half, we played very well. It’s really important for us to have started this process with a victory.”
Andrew Meredith (Coach Ireland): “We are certainly disappointed with the result. We had a strong expectation to win this game. But we are going into a transition phase, and technically we were just not good enough. We made too may unforced errors, we were too slow, the pitch is very difficult, is too wet but we all had to adjust to that. But also, our preparation has been limited. I am still disappointed to have lost the game after being 2-0 up. We have a lot of work to do between now and tomorrow against Japan.”
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