Hockey: Late equaliser saves Black Sticks men

By David Leggat

Jared Panchia playing against Malaysia earlier in the year. Photo / photosport.nz
Jared Panchia playing against Malaysia earlier in the year. Photo / photosport.nz

New Zealand needed a late goal by Jared Panchia to escape with a 1-1 in their opening International Festival of Hockey match against Malaysia in Melbourne tonight.

The teams know each other pretty well. This was the seventh meeting between the teams this year.

New Zealand won two, drew one and lost one when Malaysia played a series of matches in Tauranga in March; they then shared two 3-3 draws at the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia a month later.

World No 8 New Zealand were left to rue a failure to take advantage of a wealth of possession and turn them into shots on target.

The Black Sticks ran up eight penalty corners but a combination of poor execution and some determined defensive work by Malaysia thwarted them.

Malaysia's first half goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam produced one superb save from a fierce Kane Russell drag flick before halftime but no matter the amount of pressure the Black Sticks were unable to cash in.

That came after Malaysia had unexpectedly taken the lead through a penalty corner of their own. Noted drag flicker Sharil Saabah produced a searing drive at the start of the third quarter which tore past goalkeeper Richard Joyce.

New Zealand left it late to draw level. Nifty stickwork got the ball into the Malaysian circle and Panchia was on hand to drive it in from close range.

New Zealand had a host of players returning to the squad who contested the inaugural Trans-Tasman Trophy in Auckland last week, which culminated in the first win over Australia in New Zealand since 1967.

It is a regrouping time for the Black Sticks after the disappointment of the Rio Olympics, when they were bundled out in the quarter-finals by a late flurry of goals by Germany.

They next play world No 1 Australia tomorrow followed by world No 6 India on Saturday night before Sunday's finals day.

One of the key points for coach Colin Batch will be seeing the progress in the next two matches on tonight's effort, which had plenty of hustle but precious little real quality in the attacking circle.

- NZ Herald

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