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It's Victory for Australia again
06 Jun 2005 12:51

by S. Thyagarajan, The Hindu

The Hindu: Australia retained the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with superb golden goal by Craig Victory giving the defending champions a 4-3 win over Korea in Kuala Lumpur.

For Australia, who trailed 1-2 at half time and 1-3 in the first quarter of the second half, the fightback was indeed memorable.

A fitting finale in more than one sense, the encounter brought to the fore the technical excellence of the Australians and the fact how well the Koreans could amalgamate speed and skill. If Australia surged ahead in the early minutes from an uncanny tap in by Micheal McCann from a free hit, the Koreans, subdued during the first quarter, slotted in two goals in as many minutes.

Prompted consistently by Dae Keun Ho in the mid-field, the Aussie defence found the thrusts by Kyung seok Kim and Byung Hoon Kim difficult to tackle. There were quite a few goal-mouth skirmishes with Stephen Mowlan standing firm. But the pressure on the Aussie defence was intense, and when it caved in, the Koreans were up by two goals. Seoung Jung Kang produced a stunner of a rebound from a penalty corner and even before the cheers could die down Jong Ho Seo went on a superb solo move to finish from the top of the circle.

The Koreans entered the second half with redoubled vigour and tasted success within minutes when Jong Hyun Jang sent in a thundering penalty corner that almost ensured a place for them on the podium. But the Aussies are not the ones to take defeat lying down. Displaying admirable fortitude, they came back into the match midway through when Luke Doerner produced a stunning penalty corner followed by a goal by Mike McCann off Jaime Dwyer.

Level at 3-3, the Koreans survived a few anxious moments including two penalty corners, one of which stretched beyond the regulation time. Australia dominated the first half of the extra-time but the Korean goal-keeper Dong Sik Ko effected at least three saves to keep the encounter alive.

But in the second part an astute cross by Schubert put Craig Victory on the spot, and the latter slammed the ball home.

Held 2-2 at half-time, Pakistan recovered to win 4-2 against New Zealand for the bronze.

A golden goal for a 2-1 victory by Prabhjot Singh against Malaysia brought a modicum of respectability to India's rating.

But the squad struggled on account of its own inadequacies, reducing the contest to a tussle between India and goal-keeper Roslan Jamaluddin. The final moments were tempestuous resulting in a red card suspension for Deepak Thakur.

Pakistani umpire Rana Muhammad Liaquat's decision to reverse the goal after awarding it escalated the growing tension. A Len Aiyappa drive from a penalty corner went in off Deepak into the boards. Even as the Indians jumped for joy, the Malaysians rushed towards the umpire indicating that the ball had come either from the foot of Deepak, or from the back of the stick. The replays confirmed the latter infringement.

Liaquat then consulted Zain McLaren from South Africa and revised the verdict. This angered the Indians who surrounded him forcing the table officials to intervene. It is amusing why Liaquat who was the closest to the scene should resort to consulting Zain who was some near the centre line.

With team battling at 1-1, a quick sally by Deepak ended in a clash with Hairul Nizam. There were exchange of words and gestures, players jostling each other. Deepak shoved the rival defender in that melee inviting a red card.

The Indians played with 10. Leaving aside umpiring solecisms, the forwards, minus Rajpal Singh, were deplorably inept at the finish. Everyone was guilty of missing a chance or two, with Sandeep Micheal frittering a handful.

Rajpal Singh was commendable. Not in recent years has the team seen a perfect winger showing speed, stick work and impeccable centres to confuse the defence. It is a pity that several of his moves were wasted. The golden goal too was his creation. Rajpal's wing pass enabled Halappa to find Prabhjot well positioned to give the finishing touches.

The Indian defence, headed well by Ignace Tirkey in the mid-field and the ever consistent Dilip Tirkey, held on gamely throughout after the initial spell of disharmony. The contribution of Bimal Lakra also cannot be ignored.

India had nine penalty corners, and converted one, the equaliser from Len Aiyappa. The variations attempted for the rest did not work. Malaysia struck first early through Hairul Nizam off a pass from Misron who had latched on to a long drive by Kuhen. Malaysia was handicapped by the absence of injured Logan Raj and Nor Azlan Baker owing to his marriage.

Australia 4 defeated Korea 3
Goals: Australia - Michael McCann 2, Luke Doerner, Craig Victory (golden goal); Korea - Seong Jung Kang, Jong Ho Seo, Jong Hyun Jang

3rd Place Playoff
Pakistan 4 defeated New Zealand 2
Goals: Pakistan - Rehan Bhut 2, Adnan Zakir, Mudassar Ali Khan, New Zealand - Dean Couzins, Richard Patherick

5th Place Playoff
India 2 defeated Malaysia 1
Goals: India Len Aiyappa, Prabhjot Singh (golden goal); Malaysia  - Hairul Nizam

Final Placings
1. Australia
2. Korea
3. Pakistan
4. New Zealand
5. India
6. Malaysia
7. South Africa

Player of the Tournament: Shakeel Abbasi (Pakistan)

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