Monday, March 31, 2008

Bukit Jalil edge Tenaga for 10th title in seven years

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) retained the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League (MJHL) overall title, beating Tenaga Nasional 4-3 in the final at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium yesterday.

It was the 10th title in seven years for BJSS – four times as overall champions and six times as league winners. The success yesterday also gave them the record of having won the double four times after 2004, 2005 and 2007.

BJSS played well yesterday and it was lapses in concentration in the late stages of the match that allowed Tenaga to reduce the deficit. And BJSS coach S. Prakash heaved a huge sigh of relief at the whistle went.

“I expected it to be close and the defensive lapses in the second half were a problem for us. We had the early domination and the four goals by the 39th minute provided us with a good cushion,” he said.

“It was not an attractive final. My players kept to the game plan and they deserved credit for their hard work.”

It was the second time in the MJHL this season that BJSS denied Tenaga a title. BJSS beat 4-1 in their final league match to claim the Division One crown.

It took BJSS just one minute to open scoring with man-of-the-match Ahmad Termidzi Ismail netting the first of his three goals.

Ahmad Termidzi again punished the Tenaga defence in the 10th minute with another solo run to slot home from top D. BJSS were in full control but 10 minutes later, Tenaga pulled a goal back with a field attempt by Khairul Aiman Mohamed Nor.

Mohamed Shaiman Zali restored BJSS' two-goal lead in the 30th minute with a penalty corner goal and Ahmad Termidzi was on target again in the 39th minute.

Tenaga fought back through Division One top scorer Faizal Yaacob’s ninth goal of the season in the 57th minute and in the 65th minute, Mohamed Rashidi Nordin converted a penalty stroke to narrow the gap.

But BJSS held out to maintain their status as the top junior team in the country.

Tenaga coach Lailin Abu Hassan said: “It was a close match and we could have done better with a some better defending.”

In the playoff for third place, Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) outgunned MSJ-Batu Pahat 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out after extra time failed to resolve a 1-1 deadlock.

BPSS took the lead in the fourth minute through Eldon Lemary and Mohamed Nor Hafiq equalised for Batu Pahat with a penalty stroke conversion in the 64th minute.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our players need proper shoes to play on old pitch in Japan, says Sarjit

National hockey coach Sarjit Singh has taken a grip on the condition of the pitch for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, from April 5-13.

And he said that proper shoes were needed for players to perform well on an old pitch with lots of patches.

“There is less grip on the pitch and it is also bouncy. Players will find it difficult to play on the pitch,'' said Sarjit, who went to Japan last Saturday for three days to inspect the venue of competition.

He also had the opportunity to watch Japan play two friendly matches against Asia Cup champions South Korea on the pitch.

“The Koreans also said that it was a fast pitch and I have informed my boys to ensure that they have the proper pair of shoes for the qualifying tournament,” said Sarjit.

The Koreans, who will feature in the Beijing Olympics, won both the matches 2-0 and 4-0.

Sarjit, who returned home on Monday, added that the Japan team had retained almost all their players, who featured in the Asia Cup in Chennai last year.

“Japan have yet to name their final squad for the qualifiers. But three players from their Asia Cup side are injured and they are likely to be dropped,” he said.

Malaysia played against Japan twice in the Asia Cup and won both the matches – 2-0 in a group match and 5-3 in the playoff for third place.

Malaysia have 25 players in the training squad and the final squad of 18 will be named on Tuesday.

The team will leave for Japan on March 30.

Sarjit said that they would not have any friendly match in Japan before they open their campaign against Poland on April 5.

The other teams in the tournament are two-time world champions Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Japan.

Only the winners of the tournament will join 11 other teams in the Beijing Games in August.

Besides South Korea, the other teams who have qualified for the 12-nation Olympic tournament are Holland, Spain, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Pakistan and China.

BJSS, Tenaga go on full alert

Defending champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and Tenaga Nasional are favourites to make the final of the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League but they are aware of the pitfalls of competition in the knockout stage.

And the unpredictability of the opposing sides is the biggest threat to their aspirations.

BJSS coach S. Prakash said: “You can have the best line-up but one mistake can put you out.

“There is no easy team at this stage of competition and we have to be on the alert at all times.

“There will be pressure on my players as they are expected to win.

“The quarter-final and semi-final ties will be decided over two matches and we have to come up with strategies to get a healthy lead in the first leg.”

The quarter-final first-leg matches will be played today and the return leg matches will be played on Sunday.

BJSS will be up against Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) and the sports school have more experienced players to bank on and should win the tie.

Tenaga, who finished as runners-up in the Division One league, will play against debutants MSS Kelantan, who did well to emerge as the Division Two champions.

Tenaga coach Lailin Abu Hassan said: “In the past, we have lost matches that we were expected to win. Therefore we cannot take any team lightly.

“We will be playing against the Kelantan team for the first time. Kelantan sides are known for their aggressive approach and we can expect a robust game.

“We are injury-free and will be at full strength.”

The other newcomers in the fray, MSJ-Batu Pahat, will play against 2006 overall champions Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).

Their coach, Shaiful Azli Abdul Rahman, said that they had nothing to lose and there was no reason for them to hold back in the two-leg tie.

“We are in with a chance to win the tie and have to work hard in both the matches to get the desired result,” he said.

The other quarter-final tie should go in favour of the Bandar Penawar Sports School.

They play against Anderson, who are widely regarded as the weakest of the quarter-finalists.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kelantan to use Tun Razak Stadium as home ground

Division Two champions MSS Kelantan will use the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium in Jalan Duta as their home ground for the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League (MJHL) knockout stage.

Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary Hashim Mohd Yusoff said this was because that his team do not have an artificial turf.

Kelantan even played all their Division Two league matches away.

“Every state have an artificial turf and it is high time that Kelantan have one too,” said Hashim.

“For the knockout stage, they will use the Tun Razak Stadium as their base.”

Debutants MSS Kelantan have an uphill task as they face Division One runners-up Tenaga Nasional in the quarter-final stage of the overall cup competition.

The first-leg will be played at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium tomorrow while the return leg will be held on Sunday at the Tun Razak Stadium.

MWHA to embark on plan to qualify for Junior World Cup

The Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association (MWHA) will embark on a special programme next month to try and qualify for the Junior World Cup next year.

To achieve the dream, the MWHA have agreed to host the Junior Asia Cup from Dec 1-8 at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

The winners of the tournament will gain an automatic berth to the Junior World Cup while the second- and third-placed teams will get to play in the qualifiers.

The Malaysians have not featured in the Junior World Cup or the qualifiers before but there is a feeling that they stand a good chance with the current crop of players.

MWHA secretary S. Shamala said the junior players were currently training with the seniors and that nine of them were part of the national team.

“We have a very good set of players but so far the programme has been run on an ad hoc basis,” she said.

“Next month we hope to start off the programme on a full-time basis and the target is the Junior Asia Cup in December.

“We will name a full-time coach for the team next week and the programme will take off after the Olympic qualifiers next month,” added Shamala.

The women’s Junior World Cup will be held in Boston, United States, from Aug 4-16 next year. The qualifying tournaments will he held in the early part of the year.

Among the teams expected to play in the Junior Asia Cup are South Korea, China, Japan, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Currently the senior team are preparing for the Olympic qualifiers, which will be held in Canada from April 26-May 4.

The teams who will be competing in the meet are hosts Canada, South Korea, Ireland, Italy and Uruguay. Only the winner will gain a berth to Beijing.

Shamala said that the team were expected to leave for Canada on April 14 and the final squad of 18 would be named on April 10.

She added that junior players who do not make the final squad would continue with their training here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Defender Madzli to shoulder a heavy burden in qualifiers

Defender Mohamed Madzli Ikmar (pic) will have to shoulder a heavy burden for the national hockey team in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan from April 5-13.

The 29-year-old, who is in his 10th year with the team, has been given the task to hold up the defence, which is consider as the weakest link in the team.

“I will play my heart out to ensure that we are equal to the task. There is no doubt that the defence have been seen as the team's weakest department. But I think development in recent months have made it much stronger,” said Madzli.

“There is greater confidence among the players and we are now very much an attack-minded side. Players are ready to take risks and the defenders are able to come up with an attacking move. I feel that we will not be outclassed in any way in the qualifying tournament.”

Mazli takes the role of central defender and coach Sarjit Singh is still working on a partner for him. The latest to join up is Jiwa Mohan, who has been coaxed out of retirement to play in only the qualifying tournament.

“It is the playing system that we need to understand. It will be the coach’s choice on who will partner me. I am comfortable with any of the other defenders because they are familiar to me. But we need some time to forge a better understanding,” he said.

Madzli was one of the senior players axed from the national team after the disastrous outing at the 2006 Doha Asiad. But he earned a recall six months later and has since then featured in the Asia Cup, Olympic test event in Beijing and the Champions Trophy.

He made his national team debut in 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok and among his major international outings were World Cup (2002), Olympics (2004) and Commonwealth Games.The Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan offers one ticket to Beijing and Malaysia will be up against Germany, Poland, Japan, Switzerland and Italy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Div 2 champs MSS Kelantan ready to make waves

Division Two champions MSS Kelantan are ready to take on the big boys from Division One in the knockout stage of the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League, which begins on Friday.

The Kelantan side were making their debut in the league but they had prepared for competition since 2006 and coach Hamzi Shaari is not surprised that his team found success in their first season.

But he added that he was unsure if the team would be regular participants in the league.

“Our hope is to be a regular member of the league. But our biggest problem is finance and if there are sponsors, we will surely want to stay on. Winning the Division Two title may help us attract sponsors,” said Hamzi yesterday.

The team in competition this time are under the co-sponsorship of the MSS Kelantan and Kelantan Hockey Association. It is part of Kelatan's build-up to Sukma (Malaysia Games).

Hamzi added that eight of the players in the team would feature in Sukma while four others will come from the two Sports Schools – Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar.

“We started preparing this team in late 2006 and fielded this set of players in the Razak Cup in Johor Baru. Last year, we exposed them in different tournaments,” he said.

“The players from SMK Machang went on to win the MHF Champion Schools title last year. We are happy that the efforts are paying off.

“We plan to continue with our development programmes even if we do not have a team in the Junior League. There are many talented players but the lack of competitions is a big problem.”

Not having an artificial turf in Kelantan is another setback and for this reason, the team have to play all their matches away.

“For the quarter-finals, we hope the pitch in Kuala Terengganu is available for us,” said Hamzi.

The coach is hoping that the recent success of Kelantan teams in national tournaments will see the authorities laying an artificial turf in Kelantan.

MSS Kelantan boast of a good scoring record of 49 goals in 11 matches against 16 in Division Two. Skipper Shahrul Anuar Ibrahim is their top scorer with 15 goals and Hamzi is confident that he would keep up his scoring form.

In the draw for the knockout stage yesterday, MSS Kelantan were pitted against Division One runners-up Tenaga Nasional in the quarter-finals.

The other match-ups have Division One champions Bukit Jali Sports School (BJSS) against Old La Sallians of Klang (Olak); MSJ-Batu Pahat against Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ); and Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) against Anderson.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

MBPJ pip Olak to fourth position

A final push by Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) in their last Division One match allowed them to be seeded for the draw in the knockout stage of the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League which will held tomorrow.

MBPJ overtook Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) for fourth place in the standings after a 3-0 win over bottom-placed SMK Datuk Taha at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

With their fourth place finish, MBPJ picked up RM5,000 in prize money.

Goals from Mohd Fuad Azis (15th minute), Yacob Sabran (33rd) and Asrul Azrin Osman (49th) were enough to give them full points from the match and a fourth placing.

The PJ side will avoid Tenaga Nasional and Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) in the knockout stage but could end up with a semi-final tie against league champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).

BPSS kept their third place in the standings after demolishing Olak 6-0 at the Bandar Penawar Hockey Stadium in Johor to collect RM7, 500 for their efforts.

Olak, who were hoping to regain some of their past glory and also a bit of the prize money, failed in their attempt and will have to look at the knockout stage to redeem themselves.

Yesterday, Khairul Azwan Hamid scored a brace for BPSS in the 46th and 49th minutes while the other scorers were Faisal Shaari (44th), Mohd Shaful Nizam (47th), Raja Mohd Hafizi (54th) and Mohd Hafiz Seleman (69th).

The quarter-final qualifiers from Division One are BJSS, Tenaga, BPSS, MBPJ, Olak and Anderson.

MSS Kelantan have qualified from Division Two. The other qualifier will be known today after the final matches are played.

The final spot is a toss-up between MSN Malacca and MSJ-Batu Pahat.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Britain, India stay on course in Chile

Britain and India both made it two wins out of two in the Olympic Games qualifier here on Sunday as they headed for a showdown on Thursday.

Six teams are involved in the tournament but there is just one place available at the Olympic tournament in Beijing in August going to the winner.

Britain set the pace by cruising to a second comfortable win with a 8-0 victory over Russia. This followed a 11-0 rout of Mexico on the opening day.

Barry Middleton, Matt Daly and Glenn Kirkham all scored twice with James Tindall and Mark Ralph also getting their names on the scoresheet.

Eight-time Olympic champions India then drew level with a 7-3 triumph over Austria to go with their 8-0 demolition of Russia on Saturday.

The Austrians took a shock lead through Robert Buchta in the second minute, but India soon equalised on a penalty corner by Dilip Tirkey.

Tirkey added another penalty corner, but the Austrians drew level through Christian Minar and it stayed that way until half-time.

India then dominated the second half with goals from Ignace Tirkey, Shivendra Singh (2), Bharath and Rajpal Singh. Minar scored a consolation third for the Austrians.

Tenaga believe fight for title is still open

Tenaga Nasional have the advantage but they believe that the battle for the Division One title in the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League is far from over.

With two matches remaining, the title will go to either Tenaga Nasional or defending champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).

For Tenaga, the decisive match for them is their final fixture against BJSS on March 11. The previous day, they will take on another tough team Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and defeat will not put them out of contention for the title.

Coach Lailin Abu Hassan said: “All the other teams are out of the running and for us, it is down to that one match against BJSS. We can afford to lose to MBPJ.

“We have two tough matches to play back to back. Bukit Jalil have a longer rest. They will play against us before their final match against Anderson. And in some ways, I feel they have a slight advantage over us.”

Tenaga have 18 points while BJSS are on 16 after dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Bandar Penawar Sports School on Friday.

BJSS coach S. Prakash said that their fate in retaining the title rested in their own hands.

“It's a must win situation for us against Tenaga and we probably need to get full points too against Anderson the next day. But that equation could change if Tenaga lose or draw against MBPJ,” he said.

For both coaches, their biggest worry is the inconsistent performance of their teams in the league thus far.

Lailin said that his players tended to relax when leading in a match or when playing against weaker teams.

“The players must treat every match seriously and develop a winning mentality. That is why I have certain reservations. Now that it is crucial, hopefully they rise to the occasion,” he said.

In Division Two, it is down to a three-horse race for the title. MSS Kelantan are the leaders on 21 points followed by MSN Malacca (19) and MSSM KL (16).

The Division Two fixtures will end on March 16.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup facing dearth of entries

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament this year is set to be a second grade competition.

When entries closed at the weekend, only four teams have confirmed their entries. They are regulars Pakistan and India along with New Zealand and newcomers Belgium. And Canada, who competed last year, have asked to be considered for the tournament.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary, Hashim Mohamed Yusof, said yesterday that they would now have to review the number of teams for the tournament scheduled for May 24-31 in Ipoh.

“The plan was for an eight-nation tournament. But we now have only five, including Malaysia. We can include Canada and make it a six-nation meet or call up another team,” he said.

Of the four confirmed sides, only India have not qualified for the Beijing Olympics in August. The other top teams were unable to accept the invitation to play in Ipoh as most of them are down to play in the Champions Trophy in Rotterdam in June.

India are currently involved in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile.

Canada have already qualified for the Olympics. But the MHF may look at South Africa, who have also made it to Beijing, to make up the competition.

China, who made their debut last year, have declined invitation as they have a four-nation meet in Beijing from May 24-30.

Hashim added that Australia declined the invitation as they have two four-nation tournaments from May 22-June 5 in Darwin and Cairns.

“We will be calling for a meeting and may even make a change to the dates of the tournament if that will help bring in the teams,” he said.

It’s all over for Bandar Penawar

Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) also fell by the wayside in the challenge for the title in Division One of the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League after going down 2-3 to Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil here yesterday.

With two matches more to play, BPSS can only finish with a maximum of 16 points. Leaders Tenaga Nasional, who also have two remaining matches, are now on 18 points – two points more than Bukit Jalil Sports School.

BPSS coach Wan Mohamed Roslan said that it was disappointing that his team muffed the chance to keep their title hopes alive.

“We took a two-goal lead in the first half. But some careless defending in the second half cost us the match. Now that we can no longer overtake the top two teams, we will turn our concentration to the knockout stage and use the remaining matches to fine tune our game,” he said.

The win for MPBJ took them to seven points and they have nine points to play for in their remaining matches.

The absence of suspended Faisal Shaari diluted BPSS' effectiveness in their penalty corner set piece moves. But Mohamed Noor Faez got it right in the 25th and 30th minutes.

In the second half, BPSS let their guard down in defence and paid the price. Mohamed Azam Azman pulled a goal back for MBPJ in the 54th and Tuan Abdul Walid equalised in the 60th minute. A minute later, Mohamed Azam struck the winner for MBPJ.

In Division Two, MSSM KL lost ground in their chase for the title when they were beaten 1-2 by Clifford School-Selia Group at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.

The KL side went into the match in third place in the standings on 16 points and Clifford dented their bid to close the gap on leaders MSS Kelantan and MSN Malacca with a late goal.

Clifford had taken the lead in the 31st minute through Mohamed Nashriq Mozni but Mohamed Aidik Zainan equalised for MSSM KL in the 51st minute. Mohamed Azrul Fazri gave the Perak side their second win in the competition with a goal in the 61st minute.