Saturday, June 17, 2017

Opening defeat for Malaysia

Dispatch from London

There was no surprise as Malaysia opened their World Hockey League Semi Final campaign on a losing note.

They were comprehensively beaten 5-2 by reigning Olympic Champions Argentina in their first match.

For the top seeded Argentina , the win was their second in the tournament and they have virtually sealed their place in the quarter-finals with two matches to spare having won 2-1 against South Korea the previous day.

Malaysia however has another tough encounter today (Saturday) when they play host England.

They will need to recover fast and have a new game plan to counter the English.

Yesterday the Malaysians gave a Dr Jekyll and Hyde performance where they took the game to the South Americans in the first half. But then capitulated in the second for a big defeat.  

National skipper Mohamed Shukri Mutalib said that they had a good game plan but their mistakes in giving away penalty corners proved fatal.

Argentine hitman Gonzalo Peillat scored four goals to destroy them.

“We could have taken a point had we been more careful. We perhaps gave them too much respect. We have to recover fast and get ready for England. The players know how important the next match is. So we will be ready to give our best,” said Shukri.

The World Number One started off strongly with an early goal in the fourth minute off their effective penalty corner flick.

But the goal only served to rally the Malaysians and they came back with goals of their own.

Twice the Argentines took the lead in the first half and each time the Malaysians equalised.

The Argentine penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat scored the early goals for his team in the fourth and 11th minute from penalty corners that Malaysians had no answer to.

For Malaysia a Shahril Saabah field goal in the seventh minute and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin off a penalty corner deflection in the 18th minute was enough to keep the score 2-2 at half time.

Peillat was again on target in the 40th minute from another penalty corner.  That turned the match in their favour.

He sealed the match in the 47th minute with another penalty corner while Facundo Calioni added the fifth in the 49th minute.

Malaysia had five penalty corners in the match but only managed one goal while Argentina scored four from the six penalty corners they were awarded.

The top four finishers in London will qualify for the eight nation Odisha Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar, India, although there is a small caveat to this. 

If India, the host nation of the Final, do not finish in the top four then only the top three teams in London will qualify. They will be joined by the top three finishers from the Semi-Final competition in Johannesburg, South Africa, plus the highest ranked fourth place finisher from the two Semi-Final events.

When it comes to qualification for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, there are five automatic berths available here in London, although this will increase depending on the outcomes of the upcoming Continental Championships, which are also World Cup qualification events.