By Tan Mei Kuan
April 5: It was a roller-coaster of emotions for thousands of Malaysian supporters as they watched with their own eyes the slow yet painful defeat of Malaysia at the hands of New Zealand.
The action of world-class hockey started off amid cheers and sound of vuvuzelas from the passionate crowd who filled the stadium to the brim. Unfortunately, their spirits were dampened as the Kiwis took a two-goal lead in the opening five minutes through Nick Haig and captain Simon Child respectively.
Despite a poor start, Malaysians fought back in the second quarter by scoring its first goal in the 19th minute through player number 28, Mohamed Ramadan Rosli, igniting the hopes of Malaysians. From the New Zealand side, midfielder James Coughlan was injured in the second quarter.
At halftime, the scores were: New Zealand 2 versus Malaysia 1.
Australia 7 – Canada 0
Korea 2 – India 2
New Zealand 4 – Malaysia 2
In the last quarter of the opening match, Malaysia equalised in the 52nd minute through its player number 11, Mohd Shahrun Nabil Abdullah hence skyrocketing the expectations of their avid fans. However, Kiwis continued their domination through a penalty corner by defender Andy Hayward in the 55th minute and its fourth goal by striker Shay Neal. The two failed penalty corners, porous defence and wasted chance of possession from the home country further broke Malaysians’ heart into smithereens. The clear disappointment written in their faces could be due to the fact that Malaysia defeated New Zealand (2-1) back in 2013.
The 24th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the oldest invitational tournament in the world incepted in 1983, began on Sunday, April 5 at the Azlan Shah Stadium. Before the much-awaited match between New Zealand and Malaysia, Chemor-born player number 14, Azlan Misron was presented with a plaque for donning his 337th international cap by Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah. He is now the highest-capped Malaysian player.
During the press conference, New Zealand head coach Colin Batch was delighted at the exceptional good start for his team which enabled them to go forward quickly. Meanwhile, national coach Tai Beng Hai regretted that the team started off on the wrong foot with two scoring attempts that hit the post. Mindful of the fact that Malaysia would be facing defending champions Australia who had crushed Canada earlier in the day with a 7-0 win next, the national coach said, “We expect our players to do their best.”
Earlier in the day was also the match between India and Korea which resulted in a draw of 2-2.