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Malaysia face uphill task against Australia in top-of-the-table clash

The match between world No. 2 Australia and 13th ranked Malaysia today is anything but a clash of champions. -The Star/ANN
S. Ramaguru

Tue, Mar 12, 2013
The Star/Asia News Network

Chua Boon Huat (centre) and the other Malaysian players tossing Mohd Shahrun Nabil Abdullah into the air after their fitness training session in the swimming pool at the Impiana Hotel in Ipoh Monday.

IPOH - It can be billed as the top-of-the-table clash in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. But the match between world No. 2 Australia and 13th ranked Malaysia today is anything but a clash of champions.

The Australians have impressed with their two wins against India and Pakistan where they have scored 10 goals and conceded three.

Malaysia, in contrast, were less impressive in their 3-2 and 2-1 wins over South Korea and New Zealand.

Australia top the standings with six points ahead of the homesters with a better goal difference.

Still, Australia are not taking Malaysia lightly. Coach Ric Charlesworth has warned that Malaysia are the most experienced outfit among the six teams in the tournament.

"I think the Malaysians will be a handful. They have a knack of getting results at home as they have homeground advantage and the fans cheering them on.

"It is a great chance for them to win matches here. But I am sure we will be under pressure to perform as well. They will be tough to beat with the experience they have," said Charlesworth.

Malaysia coach Paul Revington said he was happy to see his team grind out two wins.

"Australia will start as favourites. But I always expect my players to win when they enter the pitch regardless of whom they are playing. So far, they have not let me down.

"But there are still a number of areas that we must look at, especially our defensive play. We have to be on guard from the start. The Australians will start off strongly and they do not let up," added Revington.

Against South Korea in the opening match on Saturday, Malaysia scored two last-minute goals to win the match. The match could have ended in a draw as the Malaysians failed to raise their game after taking the lead.

It was the same story against the Kiwis the next day. This time, Malaysia took a 2-0 lead but sat on it to allow the Kiwis to stage a fightback. Fortunately, the Malaysians held on for a 2-1 win.

"When you're two goals up and get more chances you must put them away. We didn't do that and that's why it was such a close affair. We must see why the players have not been able to finish off their moves. This is a good learning experience and that is what we want to do in this tournament," said Revington.

Based on statistics, Malaysia have a dismal record against the world champions. They have met 77 times with Malaysia winning only six and seven ending in draws.

Malaysia's last win came in a four-match Test series in Perth last year.

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