Malaysia's Mohd Fitri Saari is challenged for the ball by Australian Robert Hammond in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final. Australia won 8-3.
IPOH: Malaysia’s hopes of a high-five finish ended in tears as they again played second fiddle to world champions Australia in the 23rd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament.
Malaysia were a huge letdown in the final, conceding 11 penalty corners, en route to being outplayed 8-3 by Australia in the final at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Sunday.
It was Australia’s eighth title since the tournament’s inception in 1983. They were also champions in 1983, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013.
For Malaysia, it was their fifth silver medal in the tournament. They finished runners-up in 1985, 2007, 2009 and 2013.
In Sunday’s final was a nightmare for goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin Othman, who made his debut in the tournament, as he let in five penalty corners.
Defender Chris Ciriello was the hero for Australia, netting four penalty corner goals in the fifth, 17th, 42nd and 52nd minutes. He was also named man-of-the-match in the final.
Eddie Ockenden (11th), Nicholas Budgeon (46th), Matt Gohdes (65th) and Tristan White (68th) netted the other goals for Australia. Budgeon was also named top scorer in the tournament with eight goals.
Malaysia’s goals were scored by Mohd Shahril Saabah (24th), Mohd Rashid Baharom (40th) and Mohd Fitri Saari (67th).
Malaysia’s coach K. Dharmaraj was annoyed with his players, especially the defenders.
“Our defence was shaky and it resulted in us conceding five goals from penalty corner attempts,” he said.
His Australian counterpart Ric Charlesworth was delighted with his team’s performance.
“Our penalty corner conversion rate was quite good. It was a good final. I’m happy to win our eighth title here,” he said.
The defeat showed the huge gulf in class between Malaysia and Australia. This is worrying indeed as Malaysia will face Australia in their opening Group A match of the World Cup Finals in The Hague, Holland, on May 31.
On Sunday night, more than 12,000 fans turned up to cheer the national team on but Malaysia, who lost 6-2 to Australia in their round-robin match on Saturday, were simply out of their depth.
Malaysia last beat Australia in the tournament back in 1996, winning 3-1 when it was held in Penang.
Meanwhile, Asia Cup champions South Korea edged China 3-2 in a closely contested match to finish third in the tournament.
Jang Jung-hyun was the toast for South Korea as he took his goal tally to seven with a brace in the 24th and 70th minutes.
Kim Young-jin had earlier given South Korea the lead in the 20th minute.
China’s goals came through Du Talake (31st) and Sung Long (39th).
In the fifth placing playoff, Canada came alive in the last eight minutes to beat South Africa 2-0.
Adam Froese put Canada ahead in the 62nd minute off a penalty corner before Taylor Curran added the second off a field attempt four minutes later.