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NST Online: Sports

Youthful Aussies eye Olympic glory

Posted: 16 May 2011 10:09 AM PDT

Australian players celebrate their 3-2   victory  over Pakistan in the  Azlan Shah Cup final  on Sunday. —  Picture by  Ikhwan Munir

Australian players celebrate their 3-2 victory over Pakistan in the Azlan Shah Cup final on Sunday. — Picture by Ikhwan Munir

AUSTRALIA have set their sights on reclaiming Olympic gold after winning the Azlan Shah Cup with a group of young players who are expected to challenge for next year's London squad.

Coach Ric Charlesworth said winning Sunday's final against Pakistan -- which left the world, Commonwealth and Champions Trophy title-holders unbeaten in the tournament -- was the start of the long road to the 2012 Games.

"This tournament has been a very good test for us and it is also the start of the London programme. We still have a long way to go before we have the team ready," Charlesworth said.

"But the Azlan Shah Cup allowed me the opportunity to try out the younger set of players and that proved to be good exercise," he added.

"The win will only boost the morale of the players and I expect several of the young players to aim for a place in the London team."

The Australians scored a golden goal through Christopher Ciriello in extra time to defeat Asian champions Pakistan 3-2 in the final.

The victory in the seven-team tournament came despite Australia bringing a new-look squad due to unavailability and injuries, with only Liam De Young, 29, and Fergus Kavanagh, 25 having more than 100 caps.

"We had the youngest team here in Ipoh and in terms of international matches as we had only played around 40 games compared to the other teams who were well over 100 matches since the World Cup last year," Charlesworth said.

"The other teams also had young players but they have been in and out of their teams so they had more experience," he added.

"We started off slow as the players were a little rusty after a long lay-off. But we have a lot of senior players who will soon be back in the team as we prepare for this year's Champions Trophy in December in New Delhi."

Australia won the 2004 Olympics under Barry Dancer but lost out at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Charlesworth took over in 2009 and has since won the Champions Trophy twice, the 2010 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games title.

"The target of course is to win the gold medal again in London," Charlesworth said.

"The players will take a lot of positives back with them. They will be celebrating the win for now but after a week or so we will have to get down to serious work... I hope to have a strong side for London."

Australia won the title in Ipoh without losing any of their seven matches. In the round-robin stage they beat Malaysia 2-1, drew 1-1 with India and beat Pakistan 5-2, alongside wins over Britain, South Korea and New Zealand. -- AFP

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East Coast clash in final

Posted: 16 May 2011 08:41 AM PDT

By Ajitpal Singh and Zainuddin Muhammad

FOR the first time in the 22-year-old history of the FA Cup, two teams from the East Coast will battle for the prestigious title in the June 11 final.

Kelantan, who have never won the competition, and former champions Terengganu reached the final after recording comfortable victories in their semi-final return legs yesterday.

A losing finalist two years ago Kelantan drew 1-1 with Selangor in Kota Baru to advance 6-2 on aggregate.

Terengganu ended their seven-year wait for an appearance in the final with a 2-0 win over Pahang and a 5-2 aggregate victory.

As expected Selangor coach K. Devan reshuffled his team's defence by dropping first choice goalkeeper Saiful Amar together with Yosri Derma Raju and national player Asraruddin Putra Omar from the first-11.

National player Safiq Rahim and striker Fadhli Saari were also left on the bench as Devan decided on a new combination.

Kelantan also opted to leave out a few regulars, including current Super League top-scorer Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Nurul Azwan Roya on the bench.

The homesters started strongly knowing they needed to score quickly to kill-off Selangor's hopes of bouncing back from their first leg set-back.

It took them only 10 minutes to score through Shakir Shaari's long range effort which sailed past Selangor custodian Iqbal Suhaimi.

Selangor players hardly created any clear chances throughout the first half.

The Klang Valley players trooped into the changing room after half time dejected with Amirulhadi Zainal showing his dissatisfaction by throwing tantrums at one of his teammates, which was witnessed by the 25,000-odd fans.

Devan rushed to Amirulhadi to cool him down but the national player raged on about the poor performance of the team.

Frustration in the Selangor was obvious team when another player showed his ugly side when he was substituted in the second half.

Hardi Jaafar, who was replaced by Fazilidin Khalid after 70 minutes, took out his jersey and threw it on the ground after stepping out of the pitch before punching the tunnel walls as he went into the changing room.

Rudie Ramli scored the consolation goal in the 79th minute to level proceedings.

At the Sultan Nasiruddin Shah Stadium, Terengganu started strongly, buoyed by loud cheers from their fans.

With horns tooting loudly and flags waving wildly around the stadium, Joseph Kallang Tie had two half chances inside four minutes but his shots were weak and easily saved by Pahang goalkeeper Rosfaizul Azuar Ali.

In the 35th minute referee Shokri Nor awarded a penalty to Terengganu when Abdul Hadi was brought down by the Pahang keeper.

The striker didn't miss from the spot and extended their lead 4-2 on aggregate.

Terengganu finished off with a second goal four minutes before the final whistle through substitute Alim Fahmi Kamaruddin.

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