Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Faizal to the rescue as Malaysia beat Canada

Faizal Saari (left) getting into a challenge with Canada’s Mark Pearson during their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh. Faizal scored twice as Malaysia won 3-1. - SAIFUL BAHRI / The Star
Faizal Saari (left) getting into a challenge with Canada’s Mark Pearson during their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh. Faizal scored twice as Malaysia won 3-1. - SAIFUL BAHRI / The Star

IPOH: Forward Faizal Saari was Malaysia’s hero again as he scored twice in the hard-fought 3-1 win over Canada in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Monday.

Faizal, who scored the equaliser in the 2-2 draw against South Korea on Sunday, netted twice to give Malaysia their second win at the Azlan Shah Stadium. He was on target in the fourth and 45th minutes. Defender Kazamirul Nasruddin scored the other goal in the 67th minute.

Canada, who lost their third consecutive match, scored through a penalty corner by Adam Froese in the 15th minute.

With the win, Malaysia have seven points from three matches to lie third in the six-team tournament. They play fourth-placed China on Tuesday and defending champions and unbeaten Australia on Saturday.

It was drizzling when the match started but Malaysia started off promisingly by taking the lead after only four minutes.

From a pass by midfielder Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil, Faizal, who also netted the winning goal in the 3-2 win over South Africa on Thursday, easily beat goalkeeper David Carter.

Three minutes later, Faizal, who was the top scorer with six goals in last year’s tournament, had the chance to increase the lead off Malaysia’s first penalty corner but he flicked wide.

The Canadians then fought back to equalise in the 15th minute off their first penalty corner. Skipper Scott Tupper’s low flick bounced off goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin’s pads and Froese dashed in to push the ball into goal. It was Canada’s first goal in the tournament.

And Malaysia lived dangerously with Canada creating a few scoring chances.

Malaysia were then reduced to 10 men in the 24th minute when Faizal was flashed a yellow card by umpire Javed Shaikh for hitting Canada’s defender Jagdish Gill in the knee.

Despite being with one man down, Malaysia had a chance to increase the lead in the 30th minute but forward Mohd Firhan Ashaari hit the shot into the side netting with only Carter to beat.

As soon as Faizal returned to the pitch, Malaysia were again one man down when midfielder Mohd Azri Hassan was sent to the sin bin for a rough tackle in the 32nd minute.

After the breather, Malaysia pushed forward and managed to take the lead through Faizal off a penalty corner goal in the 45th minute.

The 23-year-old Faizal, who was named man-of-the-match, was unlucky not to score his hat-trick in the 47th minute. From a penalty corner, he hit a low flick but was denied by the left post.

Spurred on by the crowd, Malaysia continued to surge forward and were rewarded with a third goal in the 67th minute when Kazamirul fired home a loose ball from close range.

National chief coach K. Dharmaraj said he warned his players before the match not to take the Canadians lightly.

“We played three friendly matches against Canada in Malacca last week and they played a physical and robust game. Two of my players were flashed the yellow cards for rough tackles and I reminded them during the interval of a need to stay focused and not lose their temper.

“We played much better in the second half to register a hard-fought win. It is a good morale boosting win for us,” said Dharmaraj.

by Aftar Singh - The Star

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