Malaysia had a poor start in the 24th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as they went down 2-4 to New Zealand at the Azlan Shah Stadium.
The Malaysians, runners-up for the last two years, failed to get their game going and were punished for some silly defensive mistakes.
Before the match, defender Azlan Misron was presented with a plaque to mark his 337th match, making him the highest-capped Malaysian player.
But the happy occasion quickly turned to despair as the home side started off badly to allow the Kiwis to take a two-goal lead in the opening five minutes.
Two minutes later in a quick counter-attack, the Kiwis had the Malaysian defence backpedalling and Simon Child scored a field goal to give his team a confident start.
In the second quarter, Malaysia were a more settled side and they took the fight to New Zealand.
Mohamed Ramadan Rosli scored a field goal in a quick counter-attack in the 19th minute to give hopes of a Malaysian fightback.
Malaysia continued to surge forward but Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin and Mohamed Shahrun Nabil muffed their chances.
Malaysian only earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 47th minute. Mohamed Razie Rahim’s flick was saved by goalkeeper Devon Manchester. And when the rebound came to Azlan, he hit it against the post and went out of play.
But the equaliser finally came in the 52nd minute. It came from another quick counter attack with Mohamed Shahrun scoring a field goal.
The Kiwis, however, were not done yet. They grabbed the lead again in the 55th minute with Andy Hayward making no mistake from a penalty corner.
The Kiwis then rounded off the scoring with Shay Neal scoring their fourth goal to bag all the three points.
National coach Tai Beng Hai said the poor start contributed to the defeat.
“When you are two goals down early in the game, you play catch-up. But credit our players as they managed to find the equaliser. Then, we made two mistakes and it cost us the match,” lamented Beng Hai.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch said he was surprised with his team’s strong start.
“I think we had a strong start and finish which helped us to get the win. The Malaysians fought back to get the two goals and it was good that we managed to find our rhythm in the last quarter to score another two goals,” said Batch.
by S. Ramaguru - The Star