Australia showed why they are the World Champions when they edged England 2 – 1 in the finals of the 27th edition of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, hosted in Ipoh, Malaysia. Ranked World No. 1, Australia kept a clean record of five wins in five matches going into the finals to face the 7th ranked England.
Despite a lacklustre game, picking up only after Australia’s Blake Govers broke the duck in the 38th minute through a penalty corner, the two goals were enough for Australia to be declared the champions for a Perfect 10, from their 15 campaigns at this invitational international men’s field hockey tournament.
Shortly after Govers’ goal, Australia took their advantage further via another goal by Lachlan Sharp in the 53rd minute. Despite being two goals down, England fought back and managed to put a goal into the net in the very next minute through Sam Ward’s field goal.
A tight match it was, putting hockey fans on the edge of their seats. Even as England piled on the pressure by taking out their goalkeeper, the Kookaburras managed to ward off England’s attack, who had to settle for second best in this tournament. It was sweet revenge for the Aussies as Great Britain, whom England is part of, denied the Kookaburras their 10th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Championships last year by registering a 4-3 win.
It was a fitting victory for Australia team captain, Mark Knowles, who celebrated his 34th birthday on the day of the finals (10th March). He was also awarded Man of the Match for the tournament. This was Knowles’ final campaign in Ipoh as he retires from international hockey after the Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia this April. Knowles is a regular face at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, having won five titles.
Earlier in the day, hosts Malaysia played reigning Olympic gold medallists Argentina for the bronze medal. Argentina, who lost to World No. 12 Malaysia 1-2 in the earlier part of the tournament during the Round Robin stage weren’t going to allow history to repeat. They made sure of that by scoring two goals in the first quarter, almost from the get go, at the 38th second.
Although Malaysia had played some brilliant hockey throughout the tournament, the Speedy Tigers were no match to the South Americans, whose last appearance at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was in 2012, when they emerged as the 1st runners-up.
The 5th and 6th placing play-off was between India and Ireland, who was on their maiden Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. India, led by captain Sardar Singh, won 4-1 against Ireland in the heat of the day. Despite the circumstances, and with players down with illness, the Irish boys were definitely no walkover for their opponents.
This 27th edition of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup featured six top men’s field hockey teams, who will all compete in the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup to be held this November in Bhubaneswar, India.
Roll of Honour:
1st Runners-up: England
2nd Runners-up: Argentina
Best Player of the Tournament: Daniel Beale (Australia)
Man of the Match: Mark Knowles (Australia)
Top Goal Scorer: Gonzalo Peillat (Argentina – 8 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: George Pinner (England)
Fair Play (Piala Raja Ashman Shah): Australia
Event: 2018 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup – Day 6
Venue: Stadium Azlan Shah, Ipoh
Date: 10th March, 2018
Time: from 3.30pm
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