Japan lead pool A after Day 1 at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1.
Japan lead pool A after Day 1 at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1.
(Photo: FIH )

Japan are top of pool A after the first day of the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Malaysia. The Asians celebrated a 3-2 victory over Poland, with New Zealand winning the opening game 2-1 against Ireland. Canada surprised by drawing 3-3 with Korea in pool B. Host nation Malaysia suffered a 3-2 defeat to France. 

New Zealand v Ireland 2-1 (1-1)

Tournament favourites New Zealand won the opening match at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan defeating Ireland 2-1 (1-1) in pool A. Because of the hot weather conditions here in Malaysia, this encounter was played in four quarters of 17.5 minutes each.

Steve Edwards (11’) opened the scoring from open play, before Alan Sothern (16’) equalised with a solo run. The intensive match saw both goalkeepers, Ireland’s David Harte and New Zealand’s Devon Manchester, called into action for the remainder of the first 35 minutes but scores remained level at the break.   

“We expected that sort of match but we are very pleased with the win”, said Colin Batch. The Black Sticks coach also gave credit to the Irish goalkeeper: “David Harte had a very good game today.” Irish coach Craig Fulton added: “I have a very young team. David gives a lot of confidence to them.”

Batch’s Black Sticks started the second half with another early goal when Hugo Inglis (42’) converted the rebound of a Markus Child shot. Despite enjoying slightly more ball possession in the third quarter, the Green Machine could not fight their way back into the contest. The last quarter saw New Zealand pushing for a third goal, but the Irish defence held firm. 

“This was a nice mental challenge to get through”, Fulton said. “I’m happy with our first match.”

Japan v Poland 3-2 (1-2)

Japan bounced back in Saturday’s second match to beat Poland 3-2. The winner came off a Hiroki Sakamoto penalty corner goal on nine minutes remaining. Earlier, Poland had given away a 1-0 and 2-1 lead. 

The match started with high intensity from both sides. After Michal Raciniewski (7’) has taken the lead for Poland, his team started dancing on the pitch. However, the lead did not last long as Japan struck back one minute later. Team captain Koji Kayukawa (8’) was unmarked in the circle and made no mistake of slotting the ball past goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak.

Poland got on the scoreboard before halftime when Adrian Krokosz (29’) added another goal from open play. The third quarter saw Japan’s Ippei Fujimoto (50’) scoring a stunning goal when he took the ball reverse-stick-side to fire it underneath the crossbar. The score now was tied 2-2.

In the last quarter both teams went for the winner with both having chances to seal it. However, the winner was eventually scored by Sakamoto converting Japan’s only penalty corner in the 61st minute.

Korea v Canada 3-3 (2-1)

Canada achieved a 3-3 draw against pool B favourites Korea in Saturday’s third match at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Malaysia. The Asian champions had given away a 3-1 lead and failed to find a winner in the remaining seven minutes. Man of the match was Canada’s Matthew Guest (63’) who scored the equalising goal. 

Canada made the better start to the game and were close to scoring when Adam Froese’s penalty corner flick (10’) hit the crossbar. However, Korea were first to score, taking the lead through Cho Suk Hoon (13’).

Korea, who are also qualified for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, doubled their lead in the 24th minute when Nam Hyun flicked home a penalty corner. The Canada offense struck back immediately with a Gabriel Ho-Garcia goal. 

Korea extended their lead to 3-1 at the beginning of the second half thanks to Kim Seong Kyu (39’) getting his name on the scoreboard. Canada however did not give up, fought back strongly beating Korean goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho twice within three minutes. First, Taylor Curran (60’) fired a shot into the Korean goal, then, Matthew Guest (63’) scored the equalizer.    

Malaysia v France 3-2 (0-1)

France walked away with a 3-2 victory over Malaysia thanks to a late penalty stroke goal from Hugo Genestet. The crowd at the Stadium Hockey Wisma Belia enjoyed an entertaining encounter between host nation Malaysia and France. Malaysia created many promising scoring opportunities in the first half but failed to capitalize on them. France’s first circle penetration came 10 minutes before halftime.

Against the run of play, it was France who won the first penalty corner of the match, although the shot went wide. Malaysia tried hard to get on the scoreboard, creating several chances, but the French goalkeeper Edgar Reynaud was always in control.

Malaysia dominated play throughout the first half but it were France who opened the scoring against the run of play. Olivier Sanchez linked well with Gaspard Baumgarten to take the lead for the Tricolores.

The hosts eventually got on the scoreboard in the second half, as Ahmad Jalil (41’) tipped the ball into the goal after excellent work by the Malaysian attackers. With 20 minutes remaining, Malaysia star Faizal Saari took the lead, much to the delight of the home support.

However, France didn’t need much time to level the score to 2-2 as Victor Charlet (53’) converted a penalty corner. Six minutes before the end of the game Malaysia goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam was sent off with a yellow card after tackling a French attacker. The umpires also awarded a penalty stroke to France which was successfully taken by Hugo Genestet (64’) securing the victory. 

Find out much more about the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 by visiting the event website