World champions Australia edged Olympics champions Argentina 3-1 in the last preliminary round match of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament in Ipoh today.
The result leaves the Australians undefeated in five matches to go top of the table standings with 15 points. It also leaves the door open for host Malaysia or England to join the Australians in tomorrow’s final.
Argentina needed a win desperately against Australia today to advance to Saturday’s final.
While the Australians have booked a spot in the final much earlier, World No 2 Argentina, lying second in the table standings on seven points – were just a stone throw away. Even a draw was insufficient to see them through as lurking closely behind are host Malaysia (6 points), England (5 points) and a distance away, India on four points.
The Australians have been enjoying winning streaks against the Argentinians since the 2012 London Olympics Games. They last defeated Argentina 2-1 at the 2017 Orrisa Men’s Hockey World League final in Bhubaneswar, India.
Ranked World No 1, the Australians dominated the early proceedings. They made five circle entries against one by World No 2 Argentina.
Argentina, however, earned a penalty corner in the ninth minute but Gonzalo Peillat, their most trusted drag-flick specialist, fumbled in the set piece and the first quarter ended scoreless.
The Australians had a great chance to take the lead at the start of the second quarter, but Daniel Beale fired a meekly shot with goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi in his way.
The Rio Olympics champions, however, forced a second penalty in the 21st minute and Peillat drove the ball to the left of goalkeeper Andrew Charter to go 1-0 ahead.
But the Australians were back in the groove five minutes later when Aaron Kleinschmidt restored parity in the side. Dylan Waterspoon dazzled his way into the D, took a first aim shot at goal but the ball rebounded off Vivaldi’s pads. An unmarked Kleinschmidt steered the ball into goal.
Australia continued the thrust in the third quarter but could not make steady inroads. However, in a sudden burst of counter attack, Argentina earned their third penalty corner but Peillat’s low straight into Charter’s pads was cleared.
With 53 second remaining of the third quarter, Argentina made another stopover in the Australian penalty circle by claiming their fourth penalty corner, but Charter once again denied Peillat’s attempt.
Argentina were top of their game in the fourth quarter, picking their fifth penalty corner but all the efforts went to waste as Charter, who was voted Man of the Match, stood tall for his heroic acts.
While Argentina dominated the last quarter, it was Australia who did the damage with two quick field goals in the last five minutes of play.
Trent Mitton extended the lead in the 55th minute and Kleinschmidt stretched it to 3-1 a minute later. The result ended Argentina’s hopes of a quick entry to the final as their fate now hinges on the Malaysia-England match later in the night.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Colin Batch (Australia Head Coach):
If I look back at the five games played, we have been consistent with what we do and today we did not start as well as we wanted, and Argentina obviously got in front.
They are playing well and good credit to my players in the comeback to level firstly and then win the game in the last couple of minutes of the fourth quarter.
We know that good consistence performance is what we want in our team. We are never a team that just rely on one player. We are pleased with that result and scored the goals under difficult situations and conditions.
We also know that penalty corners are important for Argentina and Andrew Charter made some good saves at the back. We know we can rely on both our goalkeepers.
We are looking forward to tomorrow’s final and we are not sure who our opponents will be, but we have a good look at the last two games (India-Ireland and Malaysia-England).
All three teams are playing well, and I know Malaysia had a good result against Argentina and were probably disappointed in the defeat against India but all that is forgotten. The last game I think they are in as the situation is different now.
Rolando Rivero (Argentina Head Coach):
It has now been three matches in a row we have been missing that luck and a quick assessment of our matches we have been doing everything as planned.
It was a good match for us. We have six players who are new in the side and we are trying out a lot of youngsters. For us this is an important tournament. We could not play our midfielder Rossi (Lucas) as he is injured and that is another important player not on the field.
Overall, I think it was a good match. Off course we are not happy about the result and we must improve on that. As I have said before it’s a tournament we are trying out new players and defeats must be accepted at times.