Malaysia began their quest for a Sultan Azlan Shah Cup title with a comfortable 5-1 win over Poland at the Azlan Shah Stadium here in Ipoh.
It was a uplifting performance from the Malaysians who were parading four newcomers to the team.
But to be fair the Poland side, they were a last-minute replacement for South Africa and could not have had a long training period before coming here.
Still, the Malaysians ranked 13 in the world were better and better organised in their play and had the 21st ranked Poland on the defensive throughout the game.
The Malaysians play Japan next and that match could be a better testament to their final potential. Malaysia tops the group on an opening day with a better goal difference to South Korea.
Malaysian coach Roelant Oltmans said it was good to start off with a win at any time but was more pleased with the players keeping to their playing structure.
“We are starting to play a new structure and it is pleasing to see the team doing well. It is not a finished product but there are still some areas that will need to improve. We cab seen that the payers are trying and that is good. I am also pleased with the new players as they gave a good account of themselves. There is a lot of talent and we need to nurture them correctly,” he said.
The Malaysians were without their influential skipper Mohamed Shukri Mutalib as he is out of the squad due to a broken finger. The team had decided to rotate the captaincy and Mohamed Marhan Mohamed Jalil took over the armband for the match.
The first half saw the Malaysians dominating the play but a defensive error in the 13th minute allowed the Polish to gain a penalty corner. But fortunately for the Malaysians, the corner was poorly executed.
Malaysia opened their scoring in the 20th minute when they earned their first penalty corner of the match. Faizal Saari made no mistake with the flick to the right of the goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski.
In the 28th minute, the Malaysians gained the second penalty corner but Razie Rahim missed with the flick. But the Malaysians kept the ball in the D and this time Fitri Saari was at close quarters to ram home a shot for the second goal.
The Malaysians ended the first half on a high note as they scored the third goal with Faizal on target with their third penalty corner in the 30th minute.
But their good performance was blotted in the last second of the first half when the Poland side scored off their third penalty corner through Michal Kasprzyk.
In the 36th minute Ashran Hamsani scored his first goal for the senior side when he slotted home a field goal for a 4-1 lead.
Malaysia’s relentless attacks brought goal number five in the 45th minute when Faizal Saari scored from a penalty corner set-piece move for the tournament’s opening hattrick.
Poland coach Karol Sniezek admitted that they were not at theory best but gave credit to the Malaysians for taking their chances well.
“It is a good tournament to come to and I am pleased that we were able to play well in the match although we conceded five goals. We came here to learn and gain experience. In that sense playing a high-level game with such an atmosphere is greatly welcomed.
“This is not our full side as some players had commitments in Europe. But all of them are fighting for a place in the squad for the world series,” he added.