England pulverised Malaysia 7-2 to set up a showdown with World No 1 Australia in tomorrow’s final of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament.
Ranked World No 7, England finished second in the six-team table standings on eight points – seven behind unbeaten Australia who had earlier beaten Rio Olympics champions Argentina 3-1.
Mark Gleghorne, Sam Ward and Barry Middleton netted two goals each whilst Ollie Willars added one for England. Razie Abdul Rahim and Marhan Jalil replied for Malaysia.
Argentina are third in the standings (7 points) followed by Malaysia (6 points), India (4 points) and Ireland (3 points). The Malaysians will meet Argentina in the 3rd/4th playoff match while India and Ireland will feature in the 5th/6th playoff fixture.
Goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman kept the marauding English forwards at bay for a good nine minutes until England went on to surprise the 5,000 home fans with two goals with five minutes remaining of the first quarter.
Gleghorne converted a penalty corner in the 10th minute, Willars doubled the lead a minute later from field goal and Middleton made it 3-0 in the 15th minute from similar fashion.
Three goals down in the first quarter was certainly something that the Malaysian players and fans found hard to chew. Fans had expected the Malaysia Tigers to roar back loudly against England after a disastrous outing against India on Wednesday which saw the hosts torn apart in the 5-1 defeat.
Malaysia had got off to a brilliant start by earning two penalty corners early, but goalkeeper George Pinner stood his ground.
England and Malaysia returned in the second quarter mounting ferocious counter attack spells. Malaysian head coach Stephen Van Huizen introduced Hariri Abdul Rahman and rested Hafizuddin.
The Malaysians, looking for a breakthrough, earned three more penalty corners but Marhan, Fitri Saari and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin were unsuccessful as the English defenders and Pinner foiled the plot.
The English had a great opportunity to move further ahead in the 24th minute only to see Christopher Griffiths stroke the ball hastily with Hafizuddin out of line.
England went ahead 4-0 in the 31st minute through Middleton’s brace. It only spelled further trouble for the host in their mission to reduce the deficit.
It was just another bad day in the office for Stephen Van Huizen’s boys who could not contain England as Sam Ward netted a field goal in 38th minute and converted a penalty corner in the 41st minute as the English strolled to a 6-0 lead against the World No 12 side at the end of the third quarter.
Goalkeeper Hafizuddin was once again brought back into the game in the last quarter with the hope of further stopping the carnage. But it was of little help as Gleghorne scored the seventh goal for England in the 48th minute via a penalty stroke.
Malaysia mounted a late charge to score two goals. Tengku Tajuddin converted a penalty corner (50th minute) and Marhan a field goal (52nd minute).
But the damage was far overwhelming indeed as England strolled into the final unscathed.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Stephen Van Huizen (Malaysia Head Coach):
Obviously, we are disappointed. We had two chances to get into the final. One against India and against England. But unfortunately, we came under a lot of pressure from England today.
England played a very good game. We started off well in the first five minutes but once the first goal went followed by two quick goals the match was over.
The second quarter we had penalty corners, but we did not execute it well. It was over when they scored the fourth goal. But I am very proud of the boys in the sense that they did not put their head down even when we were 7-0 down. They kept on going and we managed to pull back two goals. Just fighting to the very last minute this team can play good hockey.
No body one to lose by 7-0 but sometimes it happens. We need to look what went wrong. Was it individual error or team error.
Tomorrow against Argentina will be a tough game. Being Olympic champions and World No2 they are not going to lose again. We believe it will be a good game although the players are mentally and physically exhausted after today match.
Bobby Crutchley (England Head Coach):
A lot of it was good. We played good hockey. Unfortunately for Malaysia they were also devastating but today we managed to contain them with the quick goals.
We play Australia in the final tomorrow and we hope to play much better than we did in the group match earlier. I think it will be another good battle. They (Australia) are a very physical team and are mentally very strong with a lot of experience.