South Africa vs. Malaysia: 1-2 (half-time: 1-1)
Both teams had narrow wins on opening day and started the match cautiously, not wanting to risk falling behind early. Things started to heat up after ten minutes. South Africa bobbled their first penalty-corner but Matthew Brown made no mistake on the second one, slotting the ball high out of reach of Hafizuddin Othman in the Malaysian goal.
The Asian Champions reacted immediately and besieged the South African circle, calling keeper Rene De La Peyre into action left and right. He stood his ground well but was fooled by a deflection from his own defender on a free hit drilled into the circle in the 27th minute. Malaysia had multiple chances to take the lead in the final minutes of the period but South Africa were kept afloat by De La Peyre, in fine form tonight, and the break was reached on a tied score.
After another period of domination, Malaysia logically took the lead in the 43th minute by Firhan Ashari, turning around at the top of the circle and blasting the ball in the backboard.
Play was fast and entertaining and it was soon the turn of South Africa to be threatening, earning a penalty-corner after Ignatius Malgraff cut through the whole Malaysian defense. The corner was upgraded to a penalty-stroke but Matthew Brown’s attempt was well guessed by the keeper, maintaining the narrow Malaysian lead.
South Africa pushed desperately for the elusive equalizer but Malaysia did not break down, protecting the 3 points for the win until the end to stand alone at the top of the standings in Pool D.
For more information and pictures of RSA vs. MAS, click here.
New Zealand vs. England: 2-2 (half-time: 0-2)
Both teams wanted to redeem themselves after losing their opening matches and play was immediately animated. England drew first blood in the 14th minute by James Gall, cleverly pulling away from traffic in the circle to find space and blast a shot on goal.
They nearly doubled their tally when Nicholas Bandurak arrived alone in the circle after stealing a ball in midfield but he was thwarted by Richard Joyce in the Black Sticks goal. England however did not miss their chance on the resulting penalty-corner and Luke Taylor increased their lead to 2-0 with a high drag-flick.
New Zealand came back firing on all cylinders after the break and immediately forced a couple of penalty-corners. They bobbled the first one but Kane Russell’s low flick hit the target on the second one, bringing back the Kiwis within reach of England in the 39th minute. They kept the momentum and created time and again mayhem in the English defense but could not capitalize on the next penalty-corner.
England had trouble keeping their head above water in this period. They managed to maintain their structure but were at times individually outplayed by the skilled New-Zealanders. English goal-keeper Harry Gibson kept his team alive with a fantastic save on a penalty-corner, but he could not do anything on a shot from close range by Matt Rees-Gibbs to tie the game in the 68th minute!
Neither team was satisfied with a tie that makes a quarter-final berth problematic, but the English players were the most disappointed after having blown away a 2-goal half-time lead.
For more information and pictures of NZL vs. ENG, click here.
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