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World champ Australia off to stellar start

World champion Australia got some measure of revenge for last year’s loss in the Sultan Azlan Shah cup final by beating England 4-1 in their group match today.

The Kookaburras sailed to a solid victory against the English — some of whom were part of the Great Britain team that beat the Australians 4-3 in last year’s final.

As always, the nine-time Sultan Azlan Shah cup winners look a fearsome prospect — worrying news for Malaysia, who play them tomorrow(Mar 4).

Skipper Mark Knowles, who commanded his backline with authority, praised his teammates for the good start.

“We had a few tough matches in the World League Final in India recently. It was tiring, but we put in a good shift,” he said after the match.

“Our game changed under coach Colin Batch. We play a fast and aggressive hockey and we focus more on controlling the game,” he said.

“I’m really pleased with the team and their performance today,” he said.

Despite losing some experienced defenders over the years, Mark said the Aussies’ young players left the team in good stead.

“Some of the youngsters are playing in the tournament for the first time and they performed very well,” he said.

Meanwhile, England coach Bobby Crutchley chose to focus on the positives after a tough start.

“It’s a funny game. I thought we played well and created more chances than Australia, but we also made some basic errors,” Crutchley said.

“It isn’t easy to create chances against the world champions, so we should focus on the positives.But at the same time, we’ll need to look at our errors and make sure they aren’t repeated.”

The opening quarter was a tightly contested affair, until Daniel Beale twisted his way past the English backline and squared the ball for a 15th minute Dylan Wotherspoon tap-in

Four minutes later, the world champions doubled their lead when Blake Govers deflected in a Flynn Ogilve drive from close range.

England pulled a goal back in the 25th minute when Phil Roper slammed home a solo run, but Aaron Kleinschmidt restored the Aussies’ two-goal lead only three minutes later.

Lachlan Sharp then put the icing
– Malay Mail