Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh was filled to the brim for the third consecutive night. They were there for a good reason, to provide morale support for Malaysia in her crucial match against World No 2, Australia.
Not many gave the home team a ghost of a chance to outdo the Aussies, considering that they had beaten India 4-3 and pulverized Pakistan 6-0 the day before.
Hence it was shock and awe when the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Awe because we held mighty Australia (repeat Australia!) to a draw and shock because our boys played their hearts out like never before.
Without a doubt the Aussies were the better side but they never expected that the tenacity of our players and that of veteran goalkeeper, Subramaniam Kumar, 34, would be the stumbling block.
Throughout the game, Australia kept up the pressure notching 9 penalty corners in all. But gritty Kumar stood his ground, not letting one past the post. Add this to the many attempts at the Malaysian goal, Kumar could only shake his head, “I lost count the number of saves I made.”
From the 3rd minute onwards, when Malaysia secured their first penalty and for a better part of the first half, the fans had an insight of their players’ determination. They were no mere pushovers. Nevertheless, just before the end of the first half, Trent Mitton netted a goal to put Australia one up.
The second half was more exciting with the sounds of kompang and the sea of yellow-shirt fans prompting the home team at every goal opportunity. That opportunity came 44 seconds before the game ended.
With chants of “we want goal” reverberating in the stands, Mohd Razie Rahim took a penalty corner. Faisal Saari, who connected the ball after it bounced off an opponent’s leg, finished it off in style with a direct hit into the Aussie goal. Just then the horn blared for full time and Malaysia drew with giant Australia. The fans erupted in joyous euphoria.
The Man of the game was none other than S.Kumar.
At the post match press conference, Malaysian Coach Paul Revington expressed his pleasure with the 1-1 result.
He was extremely pleased with the players’ attitude and mentality. “So long as the collective group is strong and possessed the right mentality, you’ll get a fighting spirit like this throughout the game, “said Revington.
As regard to good teamwork goalkeeper, S. Kumar said his team mates would go on the offensive soon after the opponents came close to scoring. They were undeterred by setbacks.
Kumar, who early in the game took two direct hits to the chest and received medical attention, still ventured on denying many goal attempts. “Had I let in a goal or two, the team would not have the spirit to fight on.”
With 7 points Malaysia is in 2nd place. Australia is in pole position with an identical 7 points due to superior goal average. New Zealand, with 3 points, is in 3rd place.
Their next two matches will be against Pakistan on Thursday, March 14 and India on Saturday, March 16.
When asked about Malaysia’s chances against Pakistan, Coach Revington replied that he had to review his videos first. He was, however, optimistic that the team would make it to the final. “But we have two tough matches ahead.”