Malaysia restrict Olympic champs Australia to narrow win

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia took the fight to Olympic champions Australia and came out 0-2 losers in their opening match of the Samsung Champions Trophy hockey tournament at the National Hockey Stadium here yesterday. 

The world number one scored a goal in each half to carve out the victory. One came off a deflection and the other was the result of poor tackling by the Malaysian defence. 

For most part of the match, the Malaysians matched the Aussies and restricted their opponents to few scoring chances. Malaysia also did well to ward off eight penalty corners from the Australians. 

National coach Sarjit Singh was happy with the showing and said that they could have done better with tighter play in defence. 

Close tussle: Australia’sMark Knowles (left) tries toblock Malaysia’s S. Selvarajuduring their match in theChampions Trophy at theNational Hockey Stadium inBukit Jalil yesterday. –KAMARUL ARIFFIN / The Star

“I think it was a respectable outing and the players will learn from it. We matched them in stages and there were also chances for us to score goals. The defence did well in the penalty corners and that is a good thing for us from this match,” he said. 

The Malaysian players wore sleeveless jerseys for the first time in an international match. 

The Australians started off commandingly and kept the attack along the flanks. But the Malaysian backline of Jiwa Mohan, Megat Azrafiq, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar and Baljit Singh did well to stop them early. 

The Australians stepped up the attack and Malaysia conceded a goal in the 19th minute. Russle Ford worked his way into the D and hit the ball to the centre. The ball took a deflection of Madzli's stick and rolled into goal. 

The second half saw the Australians pressing hard and earned three penalty corners within a space of 10 minutes. But Malaysia blocked all their attempts. 

The Malaysians began to lose possession as their central midfield was not providing the link for the forwardline. Mohamed Sharun Nabil and later Jivan Mohan assumed the positions during the match. 

As the Australians kept up the attack, their move in the 63rd minute paid dividends. Mark Knowles intercepted a cross by the Malaysians to put Travis Brooks through in the middle. The lanky Australian managed to evade the tackle from Baljit and Jiwa to slam the ball past goalkeeper S. Kumar. 

The Malaysians then held on for the last six minutes to walk off with their heads held high despite the defeat.  

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