Alan Sothern struck late to secure Ireland’s first victory at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan as the Green Machine defeated Japan’s Samurais 1-0 in pool A.
The match started slowly as both teams created very few chances in the first half. Japan’s most promising scoring opportunity came from a penalty corner which was parried well by the Irish goalkeeper, David Harte.
The second half showed more action as both teams tried to get on the scoreboard first. The Green Machine forced a penalty corner on 41 minutes but Japan’s goalkeeper Katsuya Takase was able to save Stephen Dowds’ attempt.
Urged on by their fans, Ireland were the better side, creating better chances and enjoying more ball possession. However, the Japanese defence stood firm. The Samurais were close to scoring when the umpires awarded a penalty stroke after Tomonori Ono (55’) was tackled in front of goal by an Irish defender.
Kei Kawakami took the stroke but the Green Machine’s keeper Harte was there to save the ball with his glove. The young Irish team remained the dominant side for the rest of the match, eventually scoring the winner thanks to Alan Sothern.
“We showed good improvement today” said Ireland coach Craig Fulton. “I hoped that we would score in the last quarter because my team worked so hard. Now we will wait and see who we will meet in the quarter finals.”