Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Argentina avenge loss to New Zealand to enter final

Argentina exacted revenge over New Zealand here yesterday, scoring a 2-1 victory to register their fourth win and a place in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament with a match to spare.

The South Americans topped the seven-nation standings on 13 points from five matches. They will complete their round-robin fixtures against Canada on Saturday.

Argentina, who failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after losing 2-3 to the Kiwis in the final of the qualifiers in Auckland in February, went on the offensive from the start.

The Argentines took the lead through forward Martin Juan Lopez in the ninth minute and went two-up with a penalty stroke conversion by Ignacio Juan Gilardi eight minutes later.

New Zealand pulled a goal back through Benjamin Collier in the 27th minute.

In the second half, Kiwis surged forwards and earned five penalty corners but goalkeeper Manuel Juan Vivaldi stopped all their attempts.

Argentina coach Jose Carlos Retegui said: “We started off well by taking a 2-0 lead. But my players were exhausted in the second half because of the humid weather.

“It was difficult to play in such hot conditions. Besides that it was also our fifth match in six days.”

Three-time champions Pakistan fell to a surprise 3-5 defeat by Belgium and need to beat India today to qualify for the final.

The scorers for Belgium were Thomas Briels (2nd), John-John Dohmen (18th), Charles Vandeweghe (24th), Jerome Dekeyser (37th) and Loic Vandeweghe (69th). Pakistan got their goals from Shakeel Abbasi (4th), Rehan Butt (23rd) and Muhammad Ateeq (35th).

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup:

Malaysia took the lead twice but due to poor defending resulted in them settling for a 2-2 draw against Canada in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here last night.

The Malaysia forwards were also a letdown, especially in the second half for failing to score when the team created numerous chances.

With the draw Malaysia have four points from one win, a draw and two defeats. They are in fifth position in the seven-nation tournament and getting into the playoff for third place looks doubtful.

Malaysia were pinned in defence for the first 13th minutes of the match. Canada earned a penalty corner in the seven minute but failed to convert. Five minutes later, Bindi Kullar's attempt from the top D was well saved by goalkeeper S. Kumar.

Forward S. Selvaraju made the first attempt for Malaysia at the Canadian goal in the 14th minute but his reserve stick hit went out.

Six minutes later, Chua Boon Huat had only goalkeeper Michael Mahood to beat but he muffed the golden chance.

But Boon Huat got it right a minute later. He deflected the ball into goal off a through pass from Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.

Canada equalised four minutes later – thanks to a blunder by Kumar. He failed to clear the ball at top of the D and Sukhwinder Singh easily collected it to push into an empty goal.

Malaysia fought back and earned two penalty corners in the 31st minute and defender Mohd Amin Rahim regained the lead for Malaysia with a low flick.

The Canadian found the equaliser again in the 62nd minute off the penalty corner with Scott Tupper putting his name on the scoresheet.

Selvaraju, Tengku Ahmad and Boon Huat managed to break through the Canada defence several times in the second half but lost the ball in the D.

“We should have won the match as we created more chances. But we gave away two soft goals. The forwards also failed to click well in the D despite creating so many chances,” said coach Sarjit Singh.

“Forwards like Tengku Ahmad, Selvaraju, Ismail (Abu) and Mohd Amerullah (Abdul Aziz) must score in the tournaments to boost their confidence.”

Malaysia will play against Belgium today and wrap up their round-robin fixtures against India on Saturday.

Sarjit said that they can expect a tough match against Belgium, who chalked up a surprise 5-3 win over Pakistan yesterday.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Malaysia aiming to salvage battered pride against Canada

After a humiliating 0-5 defeat by Argentina, Malaysia will set out to get the better of Canada today to salvage their battered pride in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament.

Malaysia have three points from a 2-1 win over New Zealand after losing the opening match against Pakistan (2-3) and they are virtually out of contention to reach the final of the tournament.

Defensive midfielder Jiwa Mohan said that expectations were high on them to give their best against Argentina after the win over Olympic-bound New Zealand but they let down the fans with a pathetic show.

“We had the chances and earned six penalty corners. We have only ourselves to blame for the heavy defeat,” said Jiwa.

He added that they had to lift their spirits and look at getting into the playoff for third place in the seven-team tournament.

“We have to get full points against Canada. We beat Canada (2-0) in the tournament last year and we can do it again,” said Jiwa, who has 230 international caps to his credit.

Canada, who will feature in the Beijing Olympics, also have three points from three matches.

Coach Sarjit Singh conceded that Canada would be tough to beat.

“Although they lost (1-2) to Pakistan, they played an exceptionally good match. Canada have improved a lot since we beat them last year,” he said.

“I hope the team will put behind them the humiliating defeat by Argentina. I also hope that defender Mohd Amin (Rahim), who failed to score against Argentina from penalty corners, will deliver against Canada.”

Sarjit added that he would give the reserves, among them goalkeeper Mohd Hanafi Hassan, midfielders Jivan Mohan and Mohd Riduan Nasir and forward Mohd Amerullah Abdul Aziz, the chance to play against Canada.

“They need high quality matches in preparation for the Asia Cup next year, which is also a qualifying tournament for 2010 World Cup in New Delhi,” he said.

Malaysia, who were the runners-up to Australia in last year's tournament, will play Belgium tomorrow and India on Saturday.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Argentina seek revenge against Kiwis for dashing Olympic hopes

Argentina have a score to settle with New Zealand today.

The South Americans' hopes of playing in the Beijing Olympics were dashed by the Kiwis in a qualifying tournament in Auckland in February. Argentina won the preliminary round match 3-2 but lost when it counted most –2-3 in the final.

Argentina coach Jose Carlos Retegui said: “We were the favourites to qualify for the Olympics and losing the place to New Zealand was a big blow for us. We want to avenge the defeat tomorrow.”

Argentina have 10 points from four matches and leads the standings on better goal difference than Pakistan. Their final round-robin fixture is against Canada on Saturday and a win over the Kiwis today will seal their place in the final.

Argentina are making their third consecutive appearance in the tournament.

In their debut outing in 2006, they finished seventh in an eight-team tournament and were placed fifth last year.

They now have a team with 16 Europe-based players showing good form.

“Nine of our players feature in the Dutch league, four in Spain and two in Belgium and their presence have definitely boosted our chances of reaching the final,” said Retegui.

The Sultan Azlan tournament is part of the Argentines preparation for the Champions Trophy in Holland next month.

Three-time champions Pakistan should have no problem defeating basement side Belgium today to qualify for the final.

Olympic-bound Pakistan wrap up their round-robin fixtures against India tomorrow.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Pakistan wait till late to edge Canada

Two quick goals in the last six minutes gave Pakistan a crucial 2-1 win over Canada to take them a step closer to reaching the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here yesterday.

Three-time champions Pakistan now have 10 points from three wins and a draw. They have two matches left – against Belgium tomorrow and India the next day.

Canada, who have three points from a win and two defeats, surprised Pakistan by taking the lead in the very first minute when a Sukhwinder Singh through pass from the top D was turned in by Kullar Bindi.

Pakistan threw men forward in search of goals but had to wait until the 64th minute for Rehan Butt to turn in Muhammad Saqlain’s cross from the left for the equaliser.

Three minutes later, Muhammad Saqlain netted the winner off a penalty corner set-piece.

In an earlier match, India fielded 12 juniors in their squad and were still too good for Beijing Olympic-bound Belgium, winning 6-4.

India have six points from four matches. As for Belgium, it was their third straight defeat.

Forward Shivendra Singh (9th, 68th minutes) and defender Sandeep Singh (29th, 35th) scored a brace each while Diwakar Ram (22nd) and S.V. Sunil (32nd) added the other goals for India.

Thomas Briels struck twice for Belgium in the 45th and 59th minutes while Alexandre De Sadeleer (24th) and Charles Vandeweghe (61st) chipped in with one each .

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Pathetic Malaysia virtually out of final after loss to Argentina

Malaysia played one of their worst games and were hammered 0-5 by Argentina in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here last night.

With the defeat, Malaysia are virtually out of the final as they only have three points from a win and two losses.

Argentina, with 10 points after their third win in four matches, need just one win in their two remaining matches to seal a place in the final. The Argentines face New Zealand tomorrow and Canada on Saturday.

The Malaysians were pathetic yesterday, making numerous errors in defence and failing to create much up front.

Argentina, who failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, played a fast attacking game from the start but had to wait until the 18th minute to open accounts when Facundo Callioni turned in Nicolas Mario Almada’s cross from the right.

Eight minutes later Callioni got his second goal off a penalty corner set piece.

Trailing 0-2, the Malaysian forwards got their game going and even earned two penalty corners, which came to nought.

Malaysia’s task was made even more difficult when defender Jiwa Mohan was sent to the sin bin in the 40th minute for bringing down Callioni outside the D.

Malaysia’s problems worsened seven minutes later.

Argentina were awarded a penalty stroke when defender Mohd Madzli Ikmar Mohd Noor stopped a penalty corner flick with his body.

Umpire Peter Alan Wright of South Africa pointed to the spot and Ignacio Juan Gilardi cooly converted. Argentina 3-0.

Argentina piled on the pressure to make it 5-0 through Hernan Lucas Cammareri’s close range attempt in the 54th minute and a Tomas Innocente Argento field goal in the 68th minute.

National coach Sarjit Singh said the defeat taught his players a good lesson – that they must stay focused for full 70 minutes.

”We made several mistakes in defence and gave away some soft goals. We also allowed the Argentines to control the midfield and they made full use of their chances,” said Sarjit.

Although he was unhappy that his players wasted a number of penalty corners, Sarjit admitted that they lost to a better team.

“However, I am pleased with my boys’ attitude as they did not give up and kept attacking until the final minute,” said Sarjit.

Argentian coach Jose Carlos Retegui was understandably delighted with the win.

“We never expected to beat Malaysia 5-0 as they played well in the first two matches against Pakistan and New Zealand,” said Retegui.

“The win has put us in a good position to qualify for the final.”

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Argentina come from behind to draw with Pakistan

Argentina came back from a goal down twice to hold three-time champions Pakistan to a 3-3 draw in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament here last night.

Both the teams now have seven points from two wins and a defeat. But Argentina top the standings on better goal difference.

Pakistan, who defeated Malaysia 3-2 and outplayed New Zealand 6-3, took the lead through Muhammad Zubair in the 10th minute but Pedro Ibarra equalised for Argentina off a penalty corner in the 30th minute.

Pakistan regained the led with Muhammad Saqlain scoring off a penalty corner set piece in the 44th minute.

But Pakistan joy was short lived as Argentina stormed back to score two goals in the space six minutes. The Argentines were awarded a penalty stroke in the 50th minute and D. Ignacio Juan Gilardi made the conversion.

Six minutes later, Argentina took a lead with a penalty corner goal by Ricardo Ignacio. Waqas Akhbar saved the day for Pakistan, scoring the equalising goal in the 63rd minute.

Pakistan could have won the match but for a flick by defender Muhammad Ateeq off the penalty corner that hit the bar in the last minute of the match.

Argentine coach Jose Carlos Retegui said that he was impressed with his players' fighting spirit.

“Our matches have always been very close and it was no different today. We managed to take the lead and had the chance to win the match. We were unlucky not to troop out of the match with full points,” he said.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Malaysia confident of beating Kiwis in second match

After a sizzling performance against Pakistan on Thursday, the Malaysian players are in high spirit and confident of getting the better of New Zealand in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament today.

However, Malaysia’s last two meetings with New Zealand ended in defeats. They lost 1-4 in the World Cup qualifiers in China in 2006 and were beaten 1-0 in the Olympic qualifiers in Madrid in 2004.

The Kiwis have three points from two matches. They edge India 4-3 before going down to Pakistan 3-6.

New Zealand qualified for the Beijing Olympics after defeating Argentina 3-2 in the qualifiers in Auckland in February.

National coach Sarjit said that the Kiwis definitely have a psychological advantage because of their two previous victories.

“We can expect a strong challenge from New Zealand, who have qualified for the Beijing Olympics.

“However, I am confident that my boys will rise to the occasion especially after their good display against Pakistan,” said Sarjit, who guided the Malaysia team to reach the final in the Sultan Azlan Shah meet last year.

Malaysia played a superb game against Pakistan and took the lead twice before going down 2-3 in their opening match.

The national players thrilled the fans with an all-out attacking game from the start to end but the forwards failed to score.

Midfielder Kelvinder Singh gave Malaysia the lead in the first minute before defender Mohd Amin Rahim scored off a penalty corner in the match against Pakistan.

Sarjit said that he wants another good showing from his team against the Kiwis.

“We went on the offensive from the first whistle against Pakistan and scored in the very first minute.

“And I want them to play an all-out attacking game again.

“We created many chances against Pakistan but the forwards was just unlucky not to score.

Sarjit said forwards like Chua Boon Huat, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Ismail Abu, S. Selvaraju and Mohd Amerullah Abdul Aziz must be very sharp in the D and make full of their chances against the Kiwis.

“It’s no point creating the chances but failing to score.”

Sarjit has warned his boys to be wary of Kiwi defender Hayden Shaw, who is good with his penalty corner drag flicks.

Shaw scored two penalty corner goals against Pakistan on Friday.

Sarjit said that he is also banking on Amin to score goals from penalty corners. Malaysia’s other penalty corner flickers are Jiwa Mohan, Baljit Singh Sarjab and Chua Boon Huat.

Malaysia, who failed to qualify for the Olympics are using the Sultan Azlan Shah meet to prepare a strong team for next year’s Asia Cup, which will be a qualifying meet for the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India need five years to rebuild team, says manager Pargat

India will need five years to rebuild their hockey team before they can match the top teams in the world.

Former India skipper and defender Pargat Singh, who is team manager for his country in the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, made the observation after seeing Argentina thrashed India 5-1 on Friday.

“India are no longer a feared side anymore. And this is not good as we will be hosting the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in New Delhi in 2010.

“We now have a short and long term programme,” said Pargat.

The short term programme is targeted for the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.”

He added that the long term programme is aimed for the 2014 World Cup.

“We should concentrate more on the long term programme to be on par with top teams in the world,” said Pargat, who is the Punjab Director of Sports.

India, eight-time Olympic champions, failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after losing 0-2 to Britain in the final of the Olympic qualifiers in Chile in March.

This is the first time since the 1928 Olympics India have failed to make it to the Games.

Pargat with 313 international caps said, that there were several reasons for the team’s failure in the Olympic qualifiers recently.

“The players lack the basic skills. Changing of coaches too often also affects the team’s performance,” said Pargat.

“A coach should be with the team for four years and a coach should not be changed after just one tournament.

“We also need more qualified coaches and artificial turfs in India to have a bigger pool of players.

“We only have four turfs in Punjab, which is too few for such a big state,” said Pargat who played for India from 1983 to 1997.

Pargat, who has captained the Indian team in 168 matches from 1989 to 1997, said poor administration and marketing was also one of the causes.

The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was suspended by the Indian Olympic Council (IOC) last month after the IHF secretary Jothi Kumaran allegedly took a bribe to include a 16-year-old player for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament.

IOC took over the IHF and removed the president K. P. S Gill and Jothi.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Sarjit’s team go down fighting to Pakistan

Malaysia played their hearts out, and even led twice, before going down fighting 3-2 to Pakistan in the seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium here yesterday.

The two teams treated the 6,000-odd fans, including Sultan Perak Sultan Azlan Shah, to an entertaining match and the national players deserve credit for an outstanding performance.

Malaysia got their goals through Kelvinder Singh in the first minute and Mohd Amin Rahim (23rd minute) while Pakistan replied through Muhammad Ateeq (22nd), Shakeel Abbasi (28th) and Mohamed Saqlain (60th).

Malaysia started the game by going on the offensive, catching Pakistan by surprise to score in the very first minute when midfielder Kelvinder deflected a cross by S. Selvaraju into goal.

The Pakistani players protested, saying that there had been an infringement by a Malaysian player but umpire Devendra Patel of New Zealand stuck to his decision.

Five minutes later Malaysia scored again but this time Mohd Amerullah Abdul Aziz’s effort was disallowed by Patel.

Pakistan, who have qualified for the Beijing Olympics, fought back and equalised in the 22nd minute off their second penalty corner through Muhammad Ateeq’s low flick.

A minute later, Malaysia regained their lead when Amin scored off their second penalty corner.

Again Pakistan hit back. A quick counter attack in the 28th minute saw Shakeel scoring from the top of the D.

Malaysian players protested that Shakeel had scored from outside the semi-circle but umpire Ged Curran of Ecuador waved them away.

Malaysia laid siege on Pakistan’s goalmouth in the second-half, looking for the winner but to no avail.

It was Pakistan who landed the sucker punch when Mohamed Saqlain deflected Muhammad Ateeq’s penalty corner into goal in the 60th minute.

National coach Sarjit Singh was full of praise for his players despite the defeat.

“My boys played their best match this year but failed to convert the chances they had. I am proud of their commitment and fitness level. I am sure the players can continue to improve,” said Sarjit.

In two earlier matches Argentina beat Belgium and New Zealand defeated Pakistan

Argentina got a well-deserved 2-1 win over Belgium through a late Tomas Innocente Argento goal in their opening game.

The South Americans went on the offensive from the start but had to wait until the 33rd minute before opening their account through Martin Ezequiel Sosa. Belgium hit back with a Jerome Truyens field goal in the 54th minute.

In an earlier match, New Zealand came back from two goals down to edge a young Indian team 4-3.

India’s Sandeep Singh scored a hat-trick to mark his return to action after almost a year out with injury. His goals came in the 14th, 20th and 60th minutes.

Unfortunately for him, and India, New Zealand – who will feature in the Beijing Games – prevailed with goals from Andrew Hayward (22nd minute), Simon Child (35th), Phillip Burrows (45th) and Gareth Brooks (54th).

India to blood juniors players at tournament

India are in the process of team rebuilding and have 11 junior players in their ranks for the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament.

Team manager Ramesh Parameswaram said that they were exposing young players to senior internationals following India's failure to qualify for the Olympics in August.

India, who have won the Olympic gold medal eight times, failed to make the cut to the Beijing Games in the qualifying tournament in Chile in February, losing 0-2 to Britain in the final.

It will be the first time since the 1928 Olympics that India will not feature in the Games.

Ramesh added that the Sultan Azlan tournament was also part of their preparation for the Junior Asia Cup, which they will host in Hyderabad in July.

“It will also be a qualifying tournament for the Junior World Cup next year (to be jointly hosted by Malaysia and Singapore). The juniors players are also being prepared for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi,'' he said.

Ramesh added that they had a good set of junior players and would be banking on defender Diwakar Ram to deliver goals from penalty corners.

The 18-year-old drag flicker was the top scorer in an eight-nation junior invitational tournament in Bukit Jalil in January with 12 goals.

Penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh, who skipped the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of a foot injury, is also in the team. Goalkeeper Adrian Dsouza, who did not feature in the Olympic qualifiers, was also named for the tournament in Ipoh.

Only five players who featured in the Olympic qualifiers will feature in the Sultan Azlan tournament. They are V. R. Raghunath, Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Vikram Kanth and Shivendra Singh.

The team under the charge of A.K. Bansal will open their campaign against New Zealand today.

Ramesh said that he hoped the players would spring a surprise against the Kiwis, who have qualified for the Olympics.

Commitment and consistency lacking in team, says Sarjit

Coach Sarjit Singh is looking at his players giving full commitment and consistent performances in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament, which begins today in Ipoh.

These were the two qualities lacking in the players during the Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan last month. Malaysia, who were ranked 14th in the world, started off well by defeating Poland 2-1 but settled for a 4-4 draw against 33rd ranked Italy in the next match.

They went on to finish third in the six-nation tournament and the sole ticket on offer to the Beijing Games went to Germany, who defeated Japan in the final.

Sarjit said that in the tournament in Ipoh, he did not want to see a repeat of the same mistakes from the players.

“The Olympic qualifying tournament was an eye opener to the players,” he said.

“I also want the players to stay alert until the final minute of every game in the Sultan Azlan tournament. We have lost matches in the dying minutes because of lapses in concentration. We cannot afford to let this happen if we hope to reach the final.”

Sarjit added that the tournament was important for the team because it also served as preparation for the Asia Cup next year, which is a qualifying event for the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Pakistan today. The other teams in the fray are Argentina, Canada, Belgium, Pakistan, India and New Zealand. Four of the teams – Canada, Belgium, Pakistan and New Zealand – will feature in the Beijing Olympics.

“Pakistan are here with their full squad. Matches against them have been closely contested and I expect the same tomorrow,” said Sarjit from Ipoh yesterday.

Malaysia played against Pakistan twice in the Champions Trophy last December.

The preliminary round match ended in a 2-2 draw and in the playoff for the seventh place, Pakistan scored a golden goal to win the match after a 2-2 deadlock in regulation time.

Influential forwards Rehan Butt and Shakel Abbasi will lead Pakistan team in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament.

Sarjit said that both the players were very skilful and he hoped that his defenders would be able to mark them tightly.

“The MHF (Malaysian Hockey Federation) have set a target for us to reach the final and we definitely need a good result against Pakistan to boost the players' confidence,'' he said.

Sarjit added that they would definitely miss the services of defender and penalty corner specialist S. Kuhan, who is still nursing a groin injury suffered during the Olympic qualifiers.

“However, I hope Jiwa (Mohan), who scored three penalty corner goals in Japan, will be able to able to do deliver again in Ipoh,'' he said.

Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi, who missed the qualifiers in Japan because of a shin injury, will be back to marshal the defence.

In the final last year, Malaysia lost 1-3 to Australia.









Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hockey Olympic Qualifier: Our girls go down to third straight defeat

Malaysia were edged 0-1 by Canada in the Olympic qualifying women's hockey tournament in Victoria, Canada, on Tuesday.

It was the national team's third straight defeat in the six-team tournament. They lost 0-3 to Ireland and were outplayed 0-5 by South Korea.

Katie Rushton scored a field goal in the 37th minute to give Canada their first win in three matches.

Malaysia will face Italy in the next match.

South Korea and Ireland chalked up their third consecutive wins to take a step closer to reaching the final. The Koreans trounced Italy 5-0 while Ireland edged Uruguay 1-0.