AZLAN SHAH CUP: Faizal’s last minute strike frustrates Australia
MALAYSIA played like champions to hold mighty Australia to a 1-1 draw in a heart-stopping Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh yesterday.
The team received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, as they did not only hold the World No 2, but also played much better than the Australians.
Faizal Saari delivered the equaliser in the 69th minute, but the entire team deserved the accolades for playing their best match under coach Paul Revington.
"It was a pleasing to hold Australia to a draw, but I could see from the faces of my players, that even in celebration, they did not look too happy with the draw. And that is the quality that I want in them," said Malaysian coach Paul Revington.
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth was more pale than usual, and said: "My men played a good game but the result did not favour us. It still a long way to go, as the tournament is only at the midway stage and anything can happen by then."
It was only three minutes into the match when Malaysia sounded their intention of fighting till the end by winning a penalty corner, but Faizal Saari flicked it just wide.
The national players looked very comfortable with the ball while Australia struggled to contain our speedy defenders.
However, the Aussies showed why they are World No 2 as they kept soaking all that Malaysia could throw at them.
Goalkeeper S. Kumar put up a brave performance to deny Australia, and needed treatment in the sixth minute as well as the 11th minute after taking hefty shots in the chest.
Faizal Saari, Chua Boon Huat, Marhan Jalil and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin created havoc in the Aussie semi-circle, but were not sharp enough when it mattered.
However, a 34th minute lapse in defence turned costly as Trent Mitton scored the easiest of goals to enter the dressing room with a slim lead.
The Australians never expected Malaysia to play attacking hockey, and the hosts never changed their style after the breather to trouble these players who have tasted World Cup and Olympic glory.
The only factor that lacked in Malaysia was the easy turnovers which they occasionally handed the Aussies on a platter.
Azlan Misron was also in top form, and his cross in the 52nd minute was heading towards Chua Boon Huat, but Aussie goalkeeper Andrew Charter just managed to get a toe to it to change its direction slightly.
Australia won a total of nine penalty corners in the match, but still, good runs and a steady Kumar between the posts kept them from increasing the lead.
And it was just waiting to happen, as Malaysia won only their second penalty corner and Faizal Saari slammed home the equaliser.