Asian teams have good starts at Azlan Shah Cup

It was a good opening day at the 28th Edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah for teams from Asia.

Three out of the four teams from Asia, namely India, Korea and Malaysia registered wins.

India got the ball rolling, defeating Asian Games gold medalist Japan 2-0.

This was followed by a thumping 6-3 win registered by Korea over higher ranked Canada.

And hosts Malaysia did not want to be left behind as the defeated Poland 5-1 in the final match of the day, sending the 5,000 odd fans that packed the stadium home in a happy mood.

Korea were a team to watch as they raced to a 6-0 lead before lifting a foot off the pedal to allow Canada to reduce the deficit.

Korean coach Shin Seok-kyo was pleased with the game but felt that they should have kept up the momentum in the last quarter.

“It is good to get off with a start especially against a top team. We want the players to keep up the winning momentum as it will give them confidence for the coming matches.

“We are here to win the title as it has been too long since we made the final in 2010,” he added.

The Koreans won the title first in 1996 and were joint champions with India in 2010.

The Canadians best showing was in 1995 and 199 when they finished in fourth place.

The Koreans took a 3-0 lead over Canada by the end of the first half.

Goals scored by Kim Jung-hoo ( 14), Lee Nam-yong (19 ), Jang Jong-hyun in the 20th minutes allowed the former champions to take a comfortable lead and stay in front.

Lee Nam-yong added the fourth goal in the 31st minute with another field attempt.

Nam-yong was again on target in the 43rd minute with a penalty corner goal while NJong-hyun scored his second in the 44th for a 6-0 lead.

Canada scored their first goal in the 45th minute via Mathew Sarmento while Adam Froese converted a penalty stroke a minute later to reduce the deficit.

And in the 50th minute scored goal number three through Fin Boothroyd.

Canada coach Paul Bundy was satisfied with the performance and felt that the players did well to stage a late fightback.

In the first match of the day, India took their chances well to overcome a defensive Japan 2-0.

Indian skipper Manpreet Singh paid tribute to the opponents defence structure.

“ It was not an easy game as they defended very well and we too lost the ball too easily at times,” said Manpreet.

“ We need to uplift our game as the tournament progresses and cut down on our defensive mistakes so that our opponents cannot capitalise.

“ It was a tough three points but that really matters to get our tournament off to a good start.”

India deserved the points for making good the chances created and had the lion share of possession in the match.

Varun Kumar made good India’s first penalty corner in the 24th minute, his hit sailing past Japanese custodian Yusuke Tanako.

Japan then threw caution into the wind and took of their keeper for an extra outfield player.

And they paid a heavy price as Manpreet sent in a precise reverse stick cross that was met by a diving Simaranjeet Singh to give India a 2-0 lead in the 56th

Japanese coach Siegfried Aikman said he was happy with his teams overall performance despite the defeat.

“ We made mistakes and paid the price for it but like I said we gave them a tough time,” contends Aikman.

“ Tomorrow we take on Malaysia and I expect an interesting match after the epic battle in Jakarta last year..”

The Malaysia v Poland match was played at a blistering pace but by the end of the first quarter, there were no goals to show.

A hattrick by Faisal Saari, all through penalty corners have the hosts a comfortable win.

Malaysian coach Roelant Oltmans said it was good to start off with a win at any time but was more pleased with the players keeping to their playing structure.

“We are starting to play a new structure and it is pleasing to see the team doing well. It is not a finished product but there are still some areas that will need to improve. We cab seen that the payers are trying and that is good. I am also pleased with the new players as they gave a good account of themselves. There is a lot of talent and we need to nurture them correctly,” he said.

Malaysia opened their scoring in the 20th minute when they earned their first penalty corner of the match. Faizal Saari made no mistake with the flick to the right of the goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski

Fitri Saari was first to a failed penalty corner attempt to ram home a shot for the second goal in the 28th minute.

The Malaysians ended the first half on a high note as they scored the third goal with Faizal on target with their third penalty corner in the 30th minute.

But their good performance was blotted in the last second of the first half when the Poland side scored off their third penalty corner through Michal Kasprzyk.

In the 36th minute Ashran Hamsani scored his first goal for the senior side when he slotted home a field goal for a 4-1 lead.

Malaysia’s relentless attacks brought goal number five in the 45th minute when Faizal Saari scored from a penalty corner set-piece move for a final scoreline of 5-1.

On the second day on Sunday, March 24, India will take in Korea, followed by Poland who will be up against Canada and the Malaysia against Japan tie ending the day.