Nine-time champions Australia started their campaign in the 27th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on a winning note following a 4-1 victory over England at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh today.
The Australians scored through Dylan Wotherspoon (15th minute), Blake Govers (19th minute), Aaron Kleinschmidt (28th minute) and Lachlan Sharp (39th minute) while Phil Roper scored for England in the 25th minute. All the goals came from field goals.
Mark Knowles, who has more than 300 international caps, was voted Man of the Match.
Australia and England last met in the group stage of the World League Finals last December in India. The score was tied at 2-2.
It was England who took a first look at the Australian goalmouth through Christopher Griffiths in the 12th minute but the ball sailed over the goalpost.
The Australians, however, were on top of their game in the 15th minute when Daniel Beale weaved his way into the penalty corner area and relayed the ball to Wotherspoon who made no mistake in putting the ball past goalkeeper George Pinner.
The Kookaburras, ranked World No 1, doubled the lead in the 19th minute when Blake Govers steered in a Flynn Ogilvie drive from close range.
The Englishmen pooled their resources together and reduced the deficit with a solo effort from Phil Roper in the 25th minute. That goal saw the Australians moving deep into defence as England’s attacking machinery went into top gear in search of the equaliser at great waves.
However, the Australians went 3-1 ahead in the 28th minute off a quick counter attack. Tom Craig’s strike was padded away by Pinner, but Kleinschmidt charged in and stroked the ball into goal.
The World champions, looking for their 10th SAS Cup title after suffering a shock 4-3 defeat against Great Britain in last year’s final, strolled to a 4-1 lead in the 39th minute via a Lachlan Sharp who pounced on the ball after Pinner failed to clear the ball off a Beagle shot.
Host Malaysia will go up against the Australians tomorrow in what is expected to be an explosive encounter between the two nations.
WHAT THEY SAID
Bobby Crutchley (England Head Coach)
It wasn’t a good start in terms of the result. It is a funny game in terms of performance that was good. There were some basic errors which we must make sure we don’t repeat, and a lot of our hockey was good today. I think we created more chances than Australia, but we got to take the chances and stop giving them such simple chances to score.
I am very pleased with our performance but obviously very disappointed with the result. We had more goal shots and created better chances, so I don’t think we were cautious at all in our play.
The unfortunate thing is we made some basic errors. We weren’t very good in the opposition penalty corner circle. There is a lot of good work we need to continue to do.
There are six good teams here and the competition is always tough throughout.
Ian Sloans (England Captain):
I did not think the rain and delay in start of our match has any impact. We just made same basic errors which we should not have. We will play India tomorrow and always realise the occasion. They are always close fought matches and we will have to do things that we did well today and keep out the mistakes.
Colin Batch (Australia Head Coach):
We knew it was going to be a hard game. They (England) are always very closely matched to us. We approach every game that we want to play well and for large parts of the first half we did thinking we had good possession of the ball.
Overall, we kept in the game and caught them on the counter attacks and provided some good opportunities around the circle and finished well.
We are thorough with what we did there and got some significant goals.
Right now, we are thinking about recovery and getting some rest before we play Malaysia tomorrow night. We are interested to see how they play Ireland. As usual Malaysia is a good team to play and we look forward to that in part of our Commonwealth Games preparation. It is important that we play well.