IPOH, Malaysia: New Zealand yesterday booked their first ever appearance in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a crushing 4-1 win over hosts Malaysia, while India defeated rivals Pakistan 2-1.
The Kiwis had the game all but sewn up by half time, racing to a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Ryan Archibald, Shea McAleese and Nick Wilson.
The Malaysians pulled a goal back through Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi in the 45th minute to give them a glimmer of hope but the match was eventually put beyond their reach with a Shay Neal goal to make it 4-1.
Malaysia’s defeat mean they cannot qualify for the final as they are four points behind second place Argentina who they meet in the final round.
The South Americans will be vying to add to their nine points to secure the right to play New Zealand, who have previously never made it further than third place, in the tournament, which is an important warm-up for the London Olympics.
Former champions India defeated Asian Games winners and arch rivals Pakistan 2-1 but their chances to reach the final have virtually gone with only one more day of preliminary round matches on Saturday.
India’s win over Pakistan was their 50th in 152 meetings and was a morale booster with Pakistan, last year’s runners-up, facing their worst performance ever in the cup as they have fallen to the bottom of the table.
Pakistan team manager Akhtar Rasool said it was not his side’s day.
“India was fortunate to score in the final minute, and it was a momentary lapse in concentration that cost us dearly,” he said.
“We have always maintained that we are here to learn and correct our mistakes ahead of the Olympics... We just have to be patient.” There was no fancy play by either side in the match played under a steady drizzle. Sandeep Singh gave India the lead when they were awarded a penalty corner in the 31st minute.
Pakistan dominated the start of second half but their finishing was woefully off for the most part until they equalized in the 61st minute when Sohail Abbas sent a low drag flick into the goal.
But just as the match was heading for a draw, Sunil Sowmarpet scored in the 69th minute, giving India a crucial win.
“We deserve the win based on our performance and discipline in defense,” Indian coach Michael Nobbs said. “The timely tackles and tactical discipline helped us through this match.” Earlier, favorites Britain were held to a 1-1 draw by South Korea.
FROM: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE