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NST Online: Sports

Wasted opportunity

Posted: 06 May 2011 10:28 PM PDT

By Jugjet Singh

 Malaysia’s  Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin (left) tries to get past    Australia’s Christopher Ciriello in their match  at the Azlan Shah Cup yesterday. — Picture by Ikhwan Munir

Malaysia's Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin (left) tries to get past Australia's Christopher Ciriello in their match at the Azlan Shah Cup yesterday. — Picture by Ikhwan Munir

MALAYSIA almost did the unthinkable, but then lost 2-1 to Australia in an Azlan Shah Cup match in Ipoh yesterday.

A missed penalty stroke, a bloody nose, and a bruising encounter was what Malaysia were left with after an absorbing tie but coach Tai Beng Hai saw plenty of positives despite the defeat.

"We played well and I must congratulate the boys for Australia are a very good side," said Beng Hai during a pitch-side interview.

"We will use what we have learnt from the first two matches for the coming ties."

Due credit for Malaysia as they started brightly and the strikers caught Australia napping in the first half with swift counter attacks which resulted in two penalty corners and a super goal in the 23rd minute.

Both the penalty corners were wasted, but Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin brought the roof down when his stylish goal gave Malaysia an unexpected lead.

Receiving an overhead ball from Radzi Rahim at the back-line, Tengku Ahmad controlled the pass and beat Brent Dancer at the tip of the semi-circle, before racing in and then beating goalkeeper Andrew Charter with a deft reverse stick shot.

The second half also belonged to Malaysia, but Asia's best goalkeeper S. Kumar had to produce some super saves to deny Australia the equaliser.

Upfront, Tengku Ahmad, Faizal Saari and Hafifihafiz Hanafi created many chances, but could convert none.

They paid a heavy price for the misses as Australia finally got the break they were looking for when a poor pass from Madzli Ikmar was intercepted and off a goalmouth melee, Madzli was hit on the face by a goal-bound shot and a penalty stroke was awarded.

Simon Orchard stepped up to the spot and beat Kumar in the 59th minute.

Malaysia refused to be cowed and continued attacking but a 63rd minute penalty stroke, taken by Faizal Saari, was easily stopped by goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

Then came the cruel blow as Australia won a penalty corner in the last minute of the match, and it was heartbreak for Malaysia as Jason Wilson scored the winner with 35 seconds remaining on the clock.

Earlier, India upset the formbook when they beat Britain 3-1 with Rupinder Singh helping himself to a hat-trick of penalty corners in the 10th, 55th and 57th minutes.

The Britain goal was scored by James Tindell in the 62nd minute.

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Milan braced for victory parade in Rome

Posted: 06 May 2011 07:59 AM PDT

ROME: AC Milan will be celebrating an 18th Serie A title this weekend if they avoid defeat away to Roma today.

Milan just need one more point to ensure they win the league and even if they don't get it today, they could still be crowned champions tomorrow if Inter Milan fail to beat Fiorentina.

Only a month ago the Serie A title race appeared to be heading for a thrilling three-way finish, with some even speculating that then in-form Udinese could turn it into a four-way battle.

But Milan beat both Inter and Napoli 3-0 at home and neither side recovered from those defeats to mount a serious challenge.

Since a surprise defeat at Palermo seemed to open the door to their rivals in March, Milan have won five in a row.

What's more, star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played in only one of those matches and is due to return to the fold against Roma, who will be without suspended midfield pair Daniele De Rossi and Simone Perrotta.

It's perhaps just as well that Milan have a healthy eight-point lead going into these final three games, because on paper at least they appeared to have the toughest run-in.

Away trips to Roma, who are sixth, and fifth-placed Udinese sandwich a home clash with Caglairi.

Arriving at this stage with only a couple of points advantage over Inter and/or Napoli would have put the pressure on Milan but now Massimiliano Allegri's team can relax safe in the knowledge that the job is almost done.

And the coach himself admitted as much after last week's victory over Bologna.

"We'll get one point from three games, we hope to do it as soon as possible but we're in good shape," he said.

Once they have secured the title, Milan will start to focus on next season and an improved assault on the Champions League.

Since winning the competition in 2007 they have not made it past the last 16 and vice-president Adriano Galliani has promised some big signings in the summer, although he also said they will have to clear out some squad players.

Behind Milan Inter need one point and Napoli, who travel to Lecce, need two to ensure they go straight into the Champions League group stages next season.

But the real battle is on for fourth place and the spot in the last Champions League qualifying round.

Lazio currently hold that but they have lost their last two and five of their last nine.

They lead Udinese and Roma by just one point and travel to Udinese tomorrow in a crucial battle.

And having won 1-0 at Lazio on Monday, Juventus, who host Chievo next Monday, are also still in with a chance as they are just four points behind Lazio. -- AFP

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