Korea defeated Canada 4-0 in the final of the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan and in the process qualified for the 2016 Champions Trophy.
It was a proud moment for Korean captain Seung Il Lee, who was also named Man of the Match, when he received the gold medal from the Sultan of Pahang, His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah. After all, it was their first victory in the final of the Champions Challenge 1 after three earlier failed attempts. They had reached the final in 2003, 2005 and 2012.
Jong Hyun Jang scored the first from a 10th minute penalty corner, Young Jin Kim added the second (13th) and Jong Hyun returned to knock the third from a penalty stroke (56th), taking his personal goal tally to eight goals in the tournament. Seong Kyu Kim made it 4-0 with a minute remaining to the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Malaysia bounced back with two quick late goals before labouring to a 4-2 win over Ireland to finish third in this edition of the Champions Challenge 1. Prior to this, Malaysia’s best result was a fourth placing in 2001 and 2012.
The atmosphere at the stadium was one of solemn at the start of this playoff tie against the Irish. Conspicuously missing were the 7,000-odd fans that had turned up in full force in Saturday’s semi-finals shockingly 5-4 defeat against Canada.
However, an estimated 3,000 fans turned up to throw their support behind national coach K. Dharmaraj and team captain Azlan Misron against the Ireland’s Green Machine.
“We lived dangerously in most of our matches and the same went tonight. I am not very happy with this kind of performance. Yes, there will be changes to the squad for the World Cup but may be two or three players. We have to play steadily for 70 minutes and lose our direction after taking early leads,” said Dharmaraj during a post-match press conference.
The match was played over four quarters with 17.5 minutes reserved for each quarter. The Malaysians, as they did against Canada on Saturday, did not waste any time and by the seventh minute had already camped inside the Irish territory.
With Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin lurking dangerously goalkeeper David Harte was forced to come out of his line and in the process stopped the Malaysian in an aggressive manner. Belgian umpire Gregory Uyttenhove awarded a penalty stroke and skipper Azlan Misron gave Ahmad Kazamirul the honour of putting Malaysia on the scoreboard first.
Malaysia once again went on the offensive four minutes later and this time Rashid Baharom swept the ball neatly past the hapless Harte to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. But the Irish created a few opportunities to get on the scoreboard and were rewarded in the 22nd minute from their third penalty corner attempt. Earlier Stephen Dowd’s penalty corner flick (14th) was saved by goalkeeper S. Kumar and Maurice Elliott’s pass did not find Alan Sothern in the circle.
Paul Gleghorne placed a powerful shot to the top right post, beating the 36-year-old Kumar for the first time, to give the hosts a 2-1 first half lead.
Malaysia came back in the second half looking fired-up but instead fell deep into defence with the constant pressure. The Irish forced the equaliser by the 43rd minute through Chris Cargo. As it turned out, the fans were going to be treated to another horror night.
Ireland and Malaysia kept on pushing in search of the winner but it was the Malaysians who dominated the fourth quarter and struck twice within a space of four minutes. Azlan made it 3-2 in the 66th minute from a field goal while Faizal Saari made a solo dash from the 50-yard line. With a horde of Irish defenders trailing him, Faizal had only keeper Harte to beat but instead relayed the ball to Firhan Ashari who scored in the last few seconds of the match to give Malaysia a heart-soothing 4-2 victory.
New Zealand, ranked world No.6, cruised to a 6-3 victory over France to finish fifth in Kuantan. While a fifth place is New Zealand’s worst result in Champions Challenge history, France finished sixth in their first ever appearance in the Champions Challenge 1.
Japan defeated Poland 3-2 in the seventh-eighth place playoff match. Poland finished at the bottom of the table, the same position they held in Quilmes, Argentina two years ago.
Results (4th May 2014) Sunday
Final: Korea 4 Canada 0; 3rd/4th Placing: Malaysia 4 Ireland 2; 5th/6th Placing: New Zealand 6 France 3; 7th/8th Placing: Japan 3 Poland 2.
#CC1 #FIH #MHC #ShekhinahPR