Monday, January 7, 2008

Malacca eye Sukma gold after winning U-21 title

Malacca have set their eyes on capturing the Sukma (Malaysia Games) men's hockey title in Kuala Terengganu in June after their excellent outing in the national Under-21 tournament, which ended on Saturday.

Powered by seven Razak Cup players, Malacca trounced Penang 8-0 in the final at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

And the good news for Malacca is that 14 of the players in the team are eligible to feature in Sukma.

Malacca coach G. Ravindran said that they would take a one-week break before resuming training for the national Games.

“We won't have the services of two influential players, Nazmi (Kamaruddin) and B. Namasivayam. But I believe we still have a side with the ability to win the Sukma gold medal,” he said.

Nazmi was not only the top scorer in the national Under-21 competition with 10 goals but he was also named as the best player of the tournament.

National trainee Namasivayam scored a hat-trick in the final and was named the man-of-the-match.

Ravindran added that all the 14 players in their team for Sukma will also be featuring in the Under-19 Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) starting next month.

“The players will represent Malacca State Council and I am confident that we will also put up strong challenges in the league,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ravindran admitted that in the absence of 32 national junior trainees preparing for an eight-nation tournament beginning on Jan 17, the quality of play in the national Under-21 tournament was not up to the mark.

“Some of the players still lack basic skills. Proper development programmes should be carried out to teach them the right basics,” said Ravindran.

National junior coach V. Muralidharan agreed with Ravindran.

“Only three or four players played well and will be called up to join the national junior training squad after the eight-nation tournament,” said Muralidharan.

Junior league to stay an Under-19 event, say MHF

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) competitions committee have shot down a proposal to make this year’s Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) an Under-20 tournament instead of Under-19.

The committee, however, will recommend to the MHF Council, who will meet on Jan 19, to allow players from the national juniors team to feature in the MJHL, which will begin next month.

National juniors coach V. Muralidharan had proposed to the competitions committee to make the MJHL an Under-20 tournament so that he would have a bigger pool of players to select from for the Junior World Cup next year.

Those who are Under-20 this year, will be eligible to feature in the Junior World Cup, which Malaysia will co-host with Singapore.

The 32 national juniors were barred from featuring in the National Under-21 tournament, which ended today.

Competitions committee chairman Manjit Majid Abdullah said that the MJHL would remain as an Under-19 league.

“However, we will recommend to the council to allow the juniors to play in the MJHL,” said Manjit.

The closing date for the MJHL is Jan 17 while the council meeting will be on Jan 19.

Manjit said this would not be a problem as teams would be allowed to submit their players’ names a few days after the council’s meeting.

He also said that they would hold the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) even if Malaysia qualified for the Beijing Olympics in August.

“If Malaysia qualify for the Olympics, the MHL will be held in September. If they fail to qualify, then we will hold the league in May,” said Manjit.

Malaysia will compete in the Olympic qualifiers in Japan from April 5-13. The other teams in the fray are world champions Germany, Poland and Switzerland. Only the champions will make it to the Olympics.

MHF to decide on juniors’ eligibility for MJHL today

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) competitions committee will meet today to decide whether to allow national juniors to feature in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL), which starts next month.

The 32 national juniors’ trainees were barred from playing in the National Under-21 tournament, which ends today.

However, national juniors coach V. Muralidharan wants his charges to be released to play in the MJHL, which will begin on Feb 4.

“The Junior World Cup is only next year. There’s no point for them to continue training.

“It will be better for them to play in the MJHL as it will give them match exposure,” he said.

“Anyway, all the states will field teams in the league in preparation for the Terengganu Sukma (Malaysia Games) in June.

“And the states will definitely want their national juniors to play for them in the MJHL.”

He also said that he would propose to the competitions committee that this year’s MHJL be made an Under-20 tournament instead of Under-19.

“By raising the age limit, there will be a bigger pool of players to select from for the Junior World Cup. And those who are 20-years-old will be eligible to feature in the Junior World Cup next year,” said Muralidharan, who was appointed as the national juniors coach last month.

His first assignment will be the eight-nation tournament which will be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil from Jan 17-27. The other teams are Australia, Germany, Holland, India, South Korea, Pakistan and New Zealand.

In preparation for the tournament, the national juniors will play seven friendly matches with the New South Wales juniors.

The first friendly match will be at the National Hockey Stadium today.

Malaysia and Singapore will co-host the 2009 Junior World Cup, which will feature 20 teams.

Four down for Penang

Penang, with four key players on the injury list, face a daunting task against favourites Malacca in the final of the National Under-21 hockey tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

Defenders R. Anbananthan and Abdul Rahimi Abdul Rahman; midfielder Mohd Fauzi Abdul Rahim and forward M. Yuvaraj are down with muscle pull and hamstring injuries.

But Penang coach B. Rajendran, who has only registered 16 players for the tournament, will have no choice but to field them against Malacca.

“Although teams are allowed to register 18 players, we decided not to do so as we didn’t want passengers on our team,” said Rajendran.

“Despite the injuries, I am confident my players will give their best against Malacca in the final.”

Rajendran is more concerned with his team’s poor penalty corner conversion rate.

“We scored from penalty corners in the group matches. But in the semi-final against Terengganu we earned 10 penalty corners but failed to convert any,” he said.

“We had a session (yesterday) just to practice our penalty corner set pieces and I hope we will get it right in the final.”

Ironically, Malacca have an excellent penalty corner flicker in Nazmi Kamaruddin.

The 21-year-old skipper is the top scorer for the team with 11 goals and has scored in all the six matches so far.

Nazmi aims to shine in the final as this would be his last outing in the age-group tournament.

“This is my second final appearance in the tournament. We lost to Perak 1-2 in the 2005 final. This time I hope to lead my team to victory,” said Nazmi.

Malacca also have the services of seven Razak Cup players, who won the tournament in Kuantan last October.

Malacca coach G. Ravindran has warned his players not to under-estimate Penang.

“I told them not to take anything for granted as Penang will be no pushover. They were unbeaten in their group matches and will have nothing to lose against us in the final,” said Ravindran.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hockey: Penang to take on Malacca in final

Mohd Jamil Saidin made a crucial deflection from the top of the D in the 59th minute to give Penang a 1-0 win over Terengganu and a place in the final of the national Under-21 tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Penang will play against favourites Malacca for the title tomorrow. Malacca, who finished as runners-up when they hosted the tournament in 2005, had no problem beating Negri Sembilan 5-2 in the other semi-final.

Penang went on the offensive from the start and earned four penalty corners in the first half but all their attempts came to nought. Terengganu also had their chances but were let down by poor finishing.

In the 30th minute, Penang saw their defender M. Yuvaraj being sent to the sin bin for bringing down forward Mohd Firham Ashari on the edge of the D. Terengganu were awarded a penalty corner but they failed to make a conversion.

Penang then came close to taking the lead in the 45th minute with Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin’s deflection hitting the post. But Penang were not to be denied a goal 14 minutes later with Mohd Jamil deflecting a through ball from Mohd Fahmi Nasir into goal.

Terengganu pushed their forwards up front in search for goals but Penang goalkeeper Mohd Syafiq Jaafar played well to save all the attempts.

Penang coach B. Rajendran said: “I am happy with the fighting spirit of my players. Some of them had to play the match even though they were suffering from muscle pulls and hamstring injuries.

“We only registered 16 players and it’s not easy playing with two players fewer than the other teams. Six matches in six days also took its toll on my players. However, I hope that my boys will rise to the occasion in the final.”

Malacca led Negri 1-0 at half time but turned on the heat in the second half.

Mohd Fareez Ismail was the toast for Malacca, scoring a brace in the eighth and 36th minutes. Skipper Nazmi Kamaruddin (46th), B. Nanasivayam (51st) and Mohd Arifin Dolah (63rd) scored the other goals. Both the Negri goals were scored by G. Kavin Kartik (39th and 55th).

Malacca coach G. Ravindran said that he was delighted with his team’s high-scoring win.

“My boys have played well in every match and I am impressed with their high level of confidence. We have been runners-up in the last four editions of the championship and we hope to end the title drought on Saturday,” he said.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fauzi puts Penang in the semis

Penang advanced to the semi-finals of the national Under-21 tournament with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Kelantan in a Group A match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

And they had to wait until the 66th minute to break the deadlock with a goal by Mohd Fauzi Abdul Rahim.

The match was marred by questionable decisions made by the umpires. K. Ravichandran awarded Kelantan a penalty corner goal in the 50th minute but reversed the decision. And Inderjit Singh awarded Penang the goal even though the ball had hit Fauzi’s foot in the D before he hit it.

Kelantan skipper Mohd Firdaus Othman and team-mate Mohd Amir Samsukhidir vented their anger at Inderjit after the match. But the duo were let off the hook with a warning by the technical committee.

The win gave Penang the top spot in the group and they play against Group B runners-up Terengganu in the semi-finals. Terengganu edged Selangor 3-2 to advance.

Mohd Ismat Imadi (30th, 37th) and Mohd Firham Ashari (64th) scored for Terengganu while Selangor got their goals through Mohd Aidil Zulfadhli ((20th) and Mohd Zulfadli Mohd Isa (57th).

Kelantan coach Hamzi Shaari said that they were robbed of victory by poor umpiring.

“Mohd Kamil (Yaakob) sounded the board off a penalty corner and the umpire blew for goal but changed his decision after discussing with the other umpire. It was a clean goal,” he said.

“What made it more frustrating for us was the umpire’s decision to award Penang the goal even though the ball hit the player’s foot. We are disappointed with the standard of umpiring in the tournament.”

Negri Sembilan made it to the semi-finals from Group A despite a 2-3 defeat by Kedah. They will play against Group B winners Malacca today for a place in the final.

Negri took the lead through G. Kavin Kartik in the 12th minute. But Kedah fought back to lead 3-1 with goals by Mohd Adam Hushaini (15th), Asrul Azrin Omar (38th) and Mohd Azuan Maiden (43rd).

Negri reduced the deficit with a goal by Johari Abdul Latif in the 64th minute.

Negri coach S. Chandran said that their target was to reach the semi-finals and anything beyond that was a bonus.

“We don’t have any star players in the team and we rely on teamwork to reach the semi-finals. Malacca will start as favourites as they have a few Razak Cup players in their ranks. However, we will come out with a game plan to give them a run for their money,” he said.

Sukma defending champions Kuala Lumpur lost out on a place in the semi-finals to Terengganu when they could only manage a 3-3 draw against Malacca

Hockey: Malacca book first ticket to semi-finals after routing Selangor

Malacca became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the national Under-21 hockey tournament yesterday. And they did in style, hammering Selangor 5-0 in a Group B match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

They now have the maximum 12 points from four matches and will wrap up their group fixtures against Kuala Lumpur today.

Three teams remain in contention for a place in the semi-finals from Group B. They are Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Terengganu.

Malacca's Nazmi Kamaruddin kept up his goal-scoring act, going on target in the 13th and 26th minutes against Selangor to take his tally to eight goals. The other scorers for Malacca were Mohd Arifin Dolah (23rd), Mohd Fareez Ismail (34th) and Dedy Ariyadi Jumaidi (66th).

Malacca coach G. Ravindran said that although they had qualified for the semi-finals, they would not take the match against KL lightly.

“We want to continue playing well in the tournament and do not want to break the good rhythm of the team,” he said.

Sukma (Malaysia Games) champions KL stayed on track for a place in the semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Johor. Mohd Faisal Kamaruddin gave the city side the lead off their first penalty corner in the eighth minute. And Hafis Jami converted another penalty corner in the 20th minute.

KL have eight points from two wins and two draws and their chances of reaching the last four will depend on the outcome of their match against Malacca.

KL coach K. Dharmaraj said: “My boys missed a lot of scoring chances against Johor and we cannot afford to do that against favourites Malacca. I hope my boys will rise to the occasion and get the better of Malacca.”

Penang are virtually through to the semi-finals from Group A after demolishing Pahang 6-0 yesterday to stay on top of the standings. Penang, who have 10 points from three wins and a draw, wrap up their group fixtures against Kelantan today.

Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin was the toast for Penang yesterday, scoring a hat-trick in the second, sixth and 56th minutes. Mohd Jamil Saidin scored two goals in the 39th and 63rd minutes and Craig Joseph Fernandez scored the other goal in the 30th minute.

Negri Sembilan took a step closer to reaching the last four after defeating defending champions Perak 3-2 yesterday. They have nine points from four matches and wrap up the group fixtures against Kedah today.

Razlee Amree Mustafar (3rd, 52nd) and Mohd Syazwan Rosley (54th) scored for Negri while Perak replied through Mohd Alif Mohd Ali (30th) and Mohd Razali Mohd Zulkapli (63rd).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Malacca whip Johor to stay on course for a place in semi-finals

Malacca kept up their excellent run in the national Under-21 tournament, chalking up their third consecutive win convincingly in a Group B match against Johor at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Malacca won the match 4-1 and it followed thumping wins over Terengganu (5-0) and Perlis (6-0). A win over Selangor today will put them through to the semi-finals with a match in hand against Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

Malacca's skipper Nazmi Kamaruddin continued to strike it hot. He was on target twice against both Terengganu and Perlis. Yesterday, he scored another brace with flicks off penalty corners in the 10th and 40th minutes.

Mohd Fareez Ismail also scored two goals for Malacca – in the 47th minute with a reserve stick attempt and in the 66th minute off a penalty corner set-piece.

Mohd Andika Norarahis converted a penalty corner for Johor in the 54th minute.

Malacca coach G. Ravindran said that his boys were continuing to improve as the tournament progressed.

“In the first two matches, they played well in the first half. But against Johor, they maintained good games in both halves. The tournament is getting tougher.

“We will be facing two strong teams in Selangor and KL and we expect tough matches because they are also in contention for semi-final berths,” said Ravindran.

“I hope my players can continue playing well to beat Selangor and qualify for the semi-finals.”

Selangor, meanwhile, paid a heavy price for a 1-0 win over Perlis yesterday with Faridzul Afiq Mohd scoring the goal in the 10th minute.

Captain Mohd Zulfadli Mohd Isa suffered an ankle injury and he is expected to miss the crucial match against Malacca.

“It (the match against Malacca) will be do-or-die for us.

“But we are unlikely to have the services of Zulfadli, who was taken to hospital for X-ray,” said coach Paul Raj.

Penang chalked up their second win, beating defending champions Perak 4-0 to go top in Group A.

Their scorers were Mohd Jamil Saidin (10th), R. Anbananthan (18th), M. Yuvaraj (26th) and Craig Joseph Fernandez (34th).

Penang are expected to beat winless Pahang today to take a step closer to the semi-finals. Their final group fixture is against Kelantan tomorrow.