Kuala Lumpur (16 Jan, 2017): World rankings were thrown out of the window as Ireland’s Green Army ‘wrestled’ with Malaysia’s Tigress en route to a 2-1 victory in the Women Hockey World League Round 2 match at the Tun Razak Stadium today.
It was the best match spectators had ever witnessed since Saturday’s opening ties between the eight participating teams here.
The Irish, ranked world No 16, were up against a Malaysian side ranked 21 in the world and were prepared for a tough time in this crucial encounter against the host who are far more comfortable playing in front of home fans and on familiar territory.
However, in a sudden burst of counter-attack in the sixth minute, Irish captain Chloe Watkins swept the ball into the Malaysian goalmouth from the top of the semi-circle and an outstretched goalkeeper Farah Ayuni Yahya fell short in reaching the ball much to the joy in the Ireland camp.
But that early goal only fired-up the wounded Tigress as they came back firing on all cylinders with four penalty corners in the first half with no result.
The drama spilled into the second half as the Malaysians chased for the equaliser. Hanis Nadiah Onn saw her powerful shot padded away by goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran in the 42nd minute and team captain Siti Noor Amarina penalty 49th minute was well saved by Ayeisha once again.
Ireland, however, silenced the home fans with a 51st minute field goal from Anna O’Flanagan to go 2-0 up but the Malaysians rallied back for the equaliser through Hanis Nadiah who placed the ball into the back of the net in the 54th minute from an acute angle on the left.
The next six minutes proved to be nightmarish for the Irish as Tigress went at full force to earn four penalty corners but the Green Army prevail until the end.
Kazakhstan won their first two points in the tournament following a 2-0 victory over Hong Kong in penalty shootout after the match ended 1-1 in regulation time.
Following a new format introduced by the International Hockey Federation for the Women Hockey World League, two points are awarded to the winning team in shootout and one point to the losing side.
Vera Domashneva fired Kazakhstan ahead in the sixth minute from a field goal but Hong Kong rallied back three minutes later for the equaliser through Ching Nam Chan. However, in the shootout only Symbat Sabazova and Alissa Chepkassova were successful.
“Honestly, the players have only been training indoor for the last few weeks as it is winter season back home. The only pitch that we have is covered in snow. That is why we could not settle down against Ireland in our first match but today we played a much better game,” said Kazakhstan head coach Serik Kalimbayev.
As for the last group match against the Malaysia’s Tigress, Kalimbayev said: “We are determined to go all out against the host. They are a great team and we will watch them play Ireland tonight and come up with a plan. The players are all fired up after this win and hopefully ‘shock’ the Malaysians on Tuesday,” added Kalimbayev.
Results – Group B: Malaysia 0 Ireland 1; Kazakhstan 1 Hong Kong 1 (Kazakhstan win 2-0 in penalty shootout)
Fixtures – Tuesday (17 Jan, 2017): Group A: Italy v Singapore (1.45pm); Wales v Thailand (4.0pm).
Group B: Ireland v Hong Kong (6.15pm); Malaysia v Kazakhstan (8.30pm).