MALAYSIA started their Sultan of Johor Cup campaign with a 4-2 win over Argentina with Shahril Saabah claiming a hat-trick at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru yesterday.
The scoreline indicated an easy win, but in fact it was Malaysia's penalty corner battery that saved the day by delivering three goals, as the Argentinians also displayed some impressive hockey but were blunt in the semi-circle.
"We went in looking for a win, and my players rose to the ocassion by beating Argentina comprehensively. This is the kind of attitude and performance I will be expecting from them in the remaining matches," said an elated coach K. Dharmaraj. Malaysia play South Korea today.
"Even though Pakistan outclassed the Koreans (3-0) they cannot be taken lightly and we will be looking for early goals to make sure of another win," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia started on a flying note when in the seventh minute, Shahril Saabah converted a penalty corner with a low flick past Argentina keeper Tomas Matias Santiago and postman Nicolas Ciclleo.
But another penalty corner in the 11th minute was squandered as the push-out by Firhan Ashaari was way off and Argentina were let off the hook.
However, Argentina were fortunate to score their equaliser in the 18th minute as a hit by Fredico Lionel Monja struck the stick of Kavin Karthik and sailed past goalkeeper Ahmad Sobri for an own goal.
Malaysia kept fighting for possession, and off their third penalty corner, they were forced to play a variation when the push out was again off tandem.
The ball was played back to Fitri Shaari whose goal-bound shot was neatly deflected in by Shahril for a 2-1 lead in the 23rd minute.
Shahril again proved his mettle when Malaysia won their fourth penalty corner three minutes after the restart, and he sent the ball crashing to the top of the net for his hat-trick.
Syamim Yusof then brought more cheers to the Malaysian side in the 48th minute when he beat three Argentinians before sending the ball goal-bound while Rashid Baharom made sure by guiding the ball home to get his name on the scoreboard.
With a 4-1 lead, Malaysia hit a home run for their first three points even though there were still 20 minutes to play.
Argentina scored their second goal in the 64th minute off Isidoro Carlos but it was too late to douse the Malaysian celebrations.
In an earlier match, Pakistan, powered by their skipper Olympian Umar Bhutta, beat South Korea 3-0. The goals were scored by Muhammad Dilber (48th, 63rd) and Muhammad Umair (53rd).
India edged England 2-1 in the second match with the goals coming from Ramandeep Singh in the sixth minute and Talwinder Singh in the 50th. England's goal was scored by Stanley French in the 66th minute.
FIXTURES -- Sept 25: Argentina v South Korea (4pm), Malaysia v England (6pm), India v Pakistan (8pm).
Sept 26: England v Argentina (4pm), South Korea v India (6pm), Malaysia v Pakistan (8pm).
Sept 28: Argentina v Pakistan (4pm), India v Malaysia (6pm), South Korea v England (8pm).
Sept 30: Final and placing matches.
Read more: HOCKEY: Off to a great start - Other - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/sports/other/hockey-off-to-a-great-start-1.361526#ixzz2fgZV7vqB