World champions Australia edged England 2-1 in the final of the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament at the famed Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh today.
It was the Australians tenth SAS Cup title eversince making their appearance in the tournament 27 years ago.
World champions Australia, ranked No 1 in the FIH rankings, last won the Sutan Azlan Shah Cup in 2016 for their ninth title since the inception of the tournament in 1983. They also finished runners-up four times (1996, 2006, 2015, 2017) and claimed bronze in 1994, 2001 and 2010.
As for England, who are placed World No 7, they won bronze in 1987 but emerged champions under the Great Britain banner in 1994 and 2017.
England and Australia got off on a fast pace. Daniel Beale visited the English penalty corner circle in the eighth minute but his attempt went wide.
The English had a chance of their own too two minutes later and Harry Martin’s shot was parried away by goalkeeper Tyler Lovell. In another counter attack, England earned the first penalty corner but it was quickly foiled by astute defending by the Australians.
Australia made 14 circle entries against 8 but both teams had only shot at goal in the first half.
The Kookaburras picked up the first penalty corner in the 38th minute and Blake Govers puts the ball past goalkeeper Harry Gibson, who had replaced Pinner during the interval break. The goal was celebrated by Australians in their chase for a 10th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Lachlan Sharp doubled the score in the 53rd minute when the Australians earned a second penalty corner. However, with six minutes remaining to the end, Sam Ward reduced the deficit for the English with a field goal.
Engand piled on the pressure and earned a penalty corner but Jake Harvie was quick out of the block to cut off any attempt. And as the clock ticked away, an Australian victory was very much on the card.
The Australians have been the most successful team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup followed by India (5 times), Pakistan (3), Germany, New Zealand and Great Britain (2 times) whilst Argentina, South Korea and Netherlands won it once.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Collin Batch (Australia Head Coach):
It was a very tight game. Defensively both teams were on top of their game. We have been pretty consistent throughout the game and obviously not many changes were made and it was also very tight in the last seven or eight minutes.
Credit to England as they kept coming and we weathered the storm till the end. We learned a lot and won the tournament in that tight situation. I am very pleased with this victory.
We will head for home and take a short rest before preparing for the Commonwealth Games next month. Sadly this has been Mark Knowles last international tournament outside Australia and he will retire after the Commonwealth Games.
This has been a very challenging tournament with five different very strong teams. We have had that experience over the years.
Mark Knowles (Australia captain):
I’m extremely happy to win the tournament on my birthday. It’s my fifth title and also my last Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. I’m going to retire from international hockey after the Commonwealth Games.
Definitely has been a meaningful win for me and also my team. I am very excited with this victory as that was the main reason we are here to capture the Cup.
It has also been a fantastic experience for the youngsters in the team and being the most senior player I know what it feels like to be here and win the Cup. We have 24 days to go for the Commonwealth Cup and it will be wonderful to give another great performance at home.
Roll of Honour:
Best Player of the Tournament: Daniel Beale (Australia)
Man of the Match: Mark Knowles (Australia)
Top Goal Scorer: Gonzalo Peillat (Argentina – 8 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: George Pinner (England)
Fair Play: Australia