Thursday, April 30, 2009

Perth training sting for women’s team

The women’s national hockey team are expected to undergo a one-week training stint in Perth from May 23.

This is in preparation for the Champions Challenge II in Kazan, Russia, from June 21-27.

Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association honorary secretary Dr S. Shamala said the team, currently training at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, would use the Perth training stint as their final preparation ahead of the Russian tournament.

“The Champions Challenge II is important as it will give Malaysia a chance to improve on the current world rankings,” Shamala said yesterday.

“The women’s team are currently 24th in Division Two of the world rankings and a top 12 rating will enable the team to move up to Division One.”

The other teams who have con­­firmed participation in the Champions Challenge II are Belgium, Ireland, Chile, India, Uk­raine, Canada and Russia.

Div2 :: Dangerous and Mohd Noor gunning for top scorer award

The top scorer’s award for this year’s Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) Under-19 competition is likely to be settled when Bukit Jalil Sports School and Bandar Penawar Sports School clash in the final on Sunday.

K. Satesh of Division Three club Nur Insafi leads the scoring chart with 14 goals. Next comes BJSS’ Dangerous Lee and BPSS’ Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim, who both have 13 goals.

With the two sports schools squaring up in the final at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil this weekend, the money’s on either Dangerous or Mohd Noor to end up with the top scorer gong.

Dangerous, of Sarawak, has scored six field goals, six penalty corner goals and one from the spot.

All except one of Mohd Noor’s goals have come from penalty corner flicks. The other one was from a penalty stroke.

The 18-year-old Mohd Noor said that he would be on a double mission in Sunday’s final.

“I want to help my team to win the elusive overall title and score more than a goal to win the top scorer’s award for the first time,” he said.

“I have scored hat-tricks in a match before ... I can do it again.”

He was pleased to hear that the final had been postponed from yesterday to Sunday, saying it would give him more time and opportunities to work on the penalty corner set pieces.

“We have no experience playing in the final but it will not stop us from trying to get the better of BJSS. We beat them 4-1 in the last league match and we can do it again,” he said.

But that win came after BJSS had already sealed the league title.

BJSS, who have won the league title for the seventh consecutive time, will be gunning their fifth overall title on Sunday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Div2 :: BJSS and BPSS set up an all-Sports School final

It will be an all-Sports School final – the first-ever between the two teams – for the overall title in the Malaysia Hockey League (Under-19 category) on Wednesday.

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) chalked up 3-2 wins in their semi-final, second-leg ties yesterday to set up the showdown.

BJSS, who won 2-1 in the first-leg, snuffed out Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) hopes of a comeback with three goals in the first-half at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. Although MBPJ managed to get two goals, BJSS were comfortable 5-3 winners on aggregate.

Over at the Bandar Penawar Hockey Stadium, BPSS had a 4-1 lead over Tenaga Nasional from the first-leg but found themselves down by two goals in the first-half. But BPSS struck three times in the second-half to go through 7-3 on aggregate.

Tenaga took the lead in the 10th minute with a penalty corner goal by Mohd Faiz Adnan.

Seven minutes later Mohd Sabri Mohd scored from another penalty corner to reduce the aggregate score to 4-3 and, suddenly, it seemed like Tenaga might just be able to pull off an upset.

But once Mohd Firhan Ashaari scored for BPSS in the 46th minute, it was as good as game over for Tenaga.

And further goals by Mohd Fitri Saari (48th minute) and Mohd Noor Faeez (55th) were simply icing on the cake for BPSS, who will be playing in their first-ever final since the Junior Hockey League started in 1995.

The BJSS-MBPJ match at the National Hockey Stadium had to be switched from the main pitch, which was in deplorable condition, to the second pitch just before the start.

This switch paid off handsomely for BJSS, who scored three times in 11 first-half minutes.

Mohd Fahmi Faiz got the first in the eighth minute off a penalty corner set piece.

A second penalty corner set piece four minutes later resulted in a penalty stroke for BJSS and Dangerous Lee converted it to make it 2-0.

Then, in the 19th minute, Mohd Izad Hakimi made it 3-0 for the day and 5-1 on aggregate off another penalty corner set piece.

Although Mohd Faiz Shukri (24th minute) and Mohd Aidil Hakimi (44th) reduced the deficit, there was no stopping BJSS from gunning for their 12th title in the series.

BJSS have won the League title seven times and the overall title four times.

Their coach, S. Prakash, said the early goals helped his team settled down and gave them the edge.

“We needed to score early. It would have been a mistake to sit back on the first-leg lead. The players did well to get the early goals and this allowed us to relax a bit in the second-half. We need to get proper rest as the final in just two days away,” he said.

“MBPJ deserve credit for putting up a fight. We need to work harder if we are to retain the title against BPSS.”

MBPJ coach Paul Raj blamed their exit on their inability to defend BPSS’ penalty corner set piece moves, just like in the first-leg.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Selvaraju turns down chance to play in France

Forward S. Selvaraju has turned down the chance to feature in the French Hockey League because of his national team commitment.

The 23-year-old Perak player said yesterday that he was invited by former international James Moorthy last month to play for French Division One outift, Racing Sander Club.

“I could not go as my priority is to represent Malaysia in the Asia Cup tournament in Kuantan (from May 9-16),” said Selvaraju.

Selvaraju, with 40 international caps to his credit, instead offered his place in the French club to his brother, former National Junior Bubalan.

“My brother, who plays as a defender for Tenaga Nasional in the MHL (Malaysia Hockey League), was delighted to play in the French League. Forward Davindran (Jai Kumar), who played for Nur Insafi in the MHL last year, was also selected to play in the French League,” said Selvaraju.

He said both the players left for France two weeks ago and had played four matches thus far, winning three and drawing one.

This is the second time this year that Selvaraju has turned down the chance to play in Europe because of national duty, having rejected the chance for a second fling with Berliner Club in the German League, which begins this month. He had played for the German club last September.

Div2 :: MSN Malacca have to bank on error-prone goalkeeper

MSN Malacca coach G. Ravindran will have no choice but to bank on error-prone goalkeeper Mohd Raizal Azmi for their quarter-final, return-leg match against Tenaga Nasional in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Under-19 competition today.

Ravindran blamed Raizal for letting the team down by conceding three easy first-half goals in their 2-3 first-leg defeat in Malacca on Sunday.

“We, however, fought back in the second-half to narrow the deficit,” said Ravindran, who said he had no choice but to rely on Raizal for the return-leg, which will be played at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium.

The coach said their reserve goalkeeper Mohd Zul Amirul Akmal Mohd Ali was inexperienced.

“I hope Raizal will rise to occasion and give his best in the crucial return-leg tie. We will play an attacking game to get the early goals,” said Ravindran, who will be counting on defender Mohd Hanif Rahim, their top scorer with 11 goals from 12 matches, to deliver the goods from penalty-corner set pieces.

Tenaga assistant team manager Jasbere Singh, meanwhile, said they would play a cautious game as “MSN Malacca are a good team with strong fighting spirit.

“They proved this on Sunday by coming back from three goals down to score twice in the second-half. We stand a 50-50 chance of reaching the semi-finals.”

In another tie, Division Three champions Nur Insafi will be seeking to overturn a two-goal deficit when they take on Division Two runners-up Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) today.

Nur Insafi coach S. Tatchanamurthy said the battle was far from over although his team lost the first-leg 2-4.

Division Two League champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), however, should have no problems reaching the semi-finals after notching big wins in the first-leg.

BJSS hammered Division Three runners-up SMK Temerloh 9-0 while MBPJ defeated Anderson of Ipoh 3-0.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Div2 :: BJSS and MBPJ already preparing for semi-final matches

The quarter-finals of the Malaysia Hockey League Under-19 category are still ongoing but Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) are already preparing for their semi-final matches.

The duo are set to go through to the last four after securing comfortable leads in their quarter-final first leg matches on Sunday.

Tomorrow’s return leg will be used by both teams as a build-up for the two-leg semi-finals on April 24 and 26.

BJSS defeated SMK Temerloh 9-0 while MBPJ were 3-0 winners over Anderson of Ipoh.

For BJSS coach S. Prakash, his concern now is the semi-finals and he will allow the reserves to gain some exposure in tomorrow’s return leg.

“We will not push the players hard in the return leg. We will try and use it to experiment and to improve on our team work. The semis will be tough as the PJ side are good,” said Prakash.

Despite having a three-goal margin, MBPJ will not take it easy. In the preliminary round, Anderson defeated MBPJ 2-0 in Ipoh. With the return leg in Ipoh, the PJ side will take a cautious approach to the game.

Two other matches in the bottom half are still far from being resolved.

Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) have a 4-2 win over Division Three champions Nur Insafi while Tenaga Nasional hold a slim 3-2 win over MSN Malacca.

BPSS needed two late goals to take the two-goal lead and they will face a very determined Penang side in the return match.

Nur Insafi coach S. Tatchanamurty said that they would continue to fight despite having a depleted side.

“The players did well in the first leg as we led the sports school twice. Only a lapse in the last one minute proved fatal. Still we intend to give our best,” said Tatchanamurty.

For Malacca, they have to take the initiative to attack Tenaga tomorrow.

In the first leg, they fought back from three goals down to end up 2-3 losers.

Said Malacca coach Azrul Effendy Bistamann: “ We have to take the fight to Tenaga and go for an early goal.

“There is no doubt that we have the ability to score goals and we have to be more consistent throughout the game. We need to attack and an early goal will give us a fighting chance.”

Asia Cup :: Our senior team to test Kuantan pitch for three days

The national hoc­key team will go to Kuantan next week to test out the pitch at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium where the Asia Cup will be held from May 9-16.

The facilities at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium including the pitch are undergoing repairs and will only be ready by the end of the week.

Team manager George Koshy said yesterday that the three-day trip would help the players to learn about the conditions there.

“It is pointless going for a long period as a lot of the players have exams here. We will make our final selection of 18 players after the trip.

“We plan to go back to Kuantan in early May and hope to play a couple of matches before the tournament starts,” said George.

The Malaysians have also scheduled a match against Pakistan on May 5 in Kuantan. They also have a request from Bangladesh for a game.

“We will play Bangladesh but the venue is not confirmed yet. They are coming early and we may play them in Kuala Lumpur before going to Kuantan,” he said.

On their preparations for the Asia Cup, Koshy said: “We are now working on the weaknesses that surfaced during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (in Ipoh earlier this month).

“Our penalty corner executions were not as potent as it should be in Ipoh. We did try out certain variations but it was mostly direct flicks or hits. We have other op­tions and will be training and using them during the Asia Cup,” said Koshy.

Malaysia are in Group A together with South Korea, Japan and Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup.

India, Pakistan, China and Bangla­desh are in Group B.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Div 1 :: Eleven teams to fight for Div One title

Eleven teams will compete in this year’s Division One category of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) from May 8.

Ipoh City Hall are back after a 20-year absence, as are the Rajawali team from the Air Force, who have been out for the last three years.

Malacca City Council are the newcomers this time.

The Armed Forces will have two teams – senior and junior – in the fray.

Division Two champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and runners-up Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) will also be competing in the one-round league.

Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary Hashim Mohd Yusof said the management committee had agreed to let BJSS and BPSS play in Division One as part of their development programmes.

Div 2 :: Malacca grab last quarter-finals spot

MSN Malacca beat JSC-Batu Pahat 3-0 to grab the last slot for the quarter-finals in Division Two (Under-19 category) of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) at the Batu Pahat Stadium yesterday.

MSN Malacca were in a straight fight with Setapak High School of Kuala Lumpur for the last spot going into the match.

But the KL team tumbled at the last hurdle, going down 1-3 to Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) at the Pandamaran Hockey Stadium in Klang.

The Malacca side have 16 points while Setapak High are in seventh place with 13 points.

MSN Malacca will face Tenaga Nasional in the last eight, which starts tomorrow.

Yesterday, three early goals allowed the Malacca side to cruise to victory over Batu Pahat.

Mohd Hanif Rahim put them ahead in the fourth minute and Amirullah Zainol made it 2-0 three minutes later.

MSN Malacca sealed victory in the 29th minute with a field goal from Mohd Zulhafiz Mohd Ali.

Tenaga stayed third with a 3-1 win over Bandar Penawar SS Juniors at the KL Hockey Stadium.

Mohd Sabri Mohd scored a brace for Tenaga in the eighth and 49th minutes before Mohd Hafizul Akhmal slotted in the third in the 53rd minute.

BPSS Juniors replied through Shahril Saabah in the 47th minute.

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) had already wrapped up the league title last week while Bandar Penawar SS (BPSS) finished as runners-up.

Ahmad hopes to make the national squad after being out for 11 months

Forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin is set to make a comeback to the national hockey team after a lapse of 11 months to play in the Asia Cup tournament in Kuantan from May 9-16.

The last outing for the Kangar-born player was in last year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament. He was not in the team for the Hamburg Masters last October because of an attachment with Hilversum HC Amsterdam in the Dutch League.

He did not make it for the recent Sultan Azlan tournament in Ipoh because of a shin injury.

Ahmad, who was named the 2007 most promising Asian player, said that he had been given a clean bill of health last week to start training.

“I definitely want to play in the Asia Cup after being out of the national team for close to one year now. But I know that it will be tough winning a place in the team because other forwards did well in Ipoh,’’ said Ahmad, who joined the team in training at Bukit Jalil yesterday.

The forwards in the team for the Sultan Azlan tournament were Chua Boon Huat, Ismail Abu, S. Selvaraju, Azlan Misron and Hafifi Hafiz.

The training session yesterday also saw the return of the other players who have recovered from injuries. They are Mohamed Radzie, Annuar Sham, Megat Azrafiq and Sallehin Abdul Ghani.

Ahmad added that he had to work very hard to improve on his fitness and also to sharpen his scoring ability.

“It’s not going to be easy as the other forwards have been in training for some time now and they are definitely much fitter and better prepared for the tournament,’’ said Ahmad, who has 82 international caps to his credit.

In the Asia Cup, Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan and Oman. Defending champions India are in Group B with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

The champions get a direct entry to next year’s World Cup Finals in New Delhi while next four teams will go into qualifying tournaments in November.

Div 2 :: Malacca banking on penalty corner specialist

MSN Malacca will bank on penalty corner flicker Mohd Hanif Rahim to help them secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Under-19 competition.

The Malacca side have 13 points from 10 matches in Division Two and they need to beat JSC-Batu Pahat at the Johor Baru Hockey Stadium today to advance.

Hanif has scored nine goals in eight matches and coach G. Ravindran is confident that the defender will deliver the goods.

Hanif admitted that the pressure was on him and he hoped that he would be able to live up to expectations.

“We not only have to collect full points but also have to win the match by a convincing margin because Setapak High School are also in the running for a place in the quarter-finals,’’ said the Malacca High School student.

Setapak High School also have 13 points going into the final league fixture today against Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak). But they are behind MSN Malacca by an inferior one-goal difference.

Former champions Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) have 15 points and they are expected to beat Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) Juniors today to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The teams who have qualified from Division Two are BJSS, Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS), Tenaga Nasional and Anderson. The two qualifiers from Division Three are Nur Insafi and SMK Temerloh.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Div 2 :: Anderson stage fight back to book place in last eight

Anderson came back from a goal down to edge Tenaga Nasional 2-1 at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium yesterday to seal a place in the quarter-finals in the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) Under-19 competition.

The Ipoh school now have 19 points from 10 matches in Division Two and they will wrap up their league fixtures against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) at the Tun Razak Stadium here tomorrow.

Although Tenaga lost the match, they also qualified for the knockout stage with 19 points from 10 matches.

The other two teams who booked their places earlier were league champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and runners-up BPSS.

Yesterday, Tenaga took the lead in the fifth minute through Mohd Amiruddin Mohd Yunan off a field attempt. But Anderson fought back in the second half to score two goals in a space of 15 minutes. Mohd Harris Fadilla Zulkafli equalised in the 40th minute and 15 minutes later, Mohd Norazmirul Azman scored off a penalty corner.

Former champions Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MBPJ) took a step closer to reach the quarter-finals when they defeated Bukit Penawar Sports School (BPSS) Juniors 2-0 at the Tun Razak Stadium.

MBPJ now have 15 points and need to beat BJSS Juniors tomorrow to book their place in the knockout stage.

MSN Malacca and Setapak High School are both tied on 13 points from 10 matches and they will be fighting for the last slot to the quarter-finals from Division Two.

The qualifiers from Division Three are Nur Insafi and SMK Temerloh.

Award the right tonic for Kumar ahead of Asia Cup

Goalkeeper S. Kumar is having a great run in international hockey tournaments.

He was voted the best goalkeeper for the fifth time in two years at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh where Malaysia finished as the runners-up.

Kumar first won the award in the same tournament in May 2007 and three months later, he also came out tops in the Asia Cup in India. Last year, he won the award at the Olympic qualifiers in Japan in April and at the four-nation Hamburg Masters in October.

The 30-year-old from Tampin, who made his international debut in a four-nation tournament in Australia in 2003 and now has 125 international caps to his credit, said: “I believe that I am the only national goalkeeper to hold such a record.

“It is definitely a big boost ahead of the Asia Cup (in Kuantan from May 9-16).”

Kumar admitted that the task in the Asia Cup would be tough indeed.

“The odds are stacked against us to win the tournament and get the automatic berth to the World Cup Finals in New Delhi next year,” he said.

“Nothing is impossible to achieve if we give our best. We have beaten teams like South Korea and Japan before and we can do it again.”

The Asia Cup offers the champions a direct entry to the Finals and the next four teams will go into three qualifying tournaments in November.

Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan and Oman while Group B comprises defending champions India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

Malaysia chalked up creditable results in the Sultan Azlan tournament, which ended last Sunday. They defeated Pakistan (3-2) and Egypt (4-1); drew 1-1 with New Zealand; and were beaten twice by India — 0-3 in the round-robin match and 1-3 in the final.

The team will resume training today in Bukit Jalil and will move camp to Kuantan at the end of the month.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Div 2 :: Off-target MBPJ now fighting for survival

Former champions Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) wanted to finish among the top three in the Division Two (Under-19) of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

But with just two matches to play in the 12-team league, they are fighting to finish among top six to qualify for the quarter-finals.

MBPJ will play against Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) Juniors today and they will wrap up their league fixtures against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) on Friday.

Coach Paul Raj said: “I am disappointed that we failed to achieve our target.

“We have a well-balanced team but the downfall was conceding goals in the dying minutes of matches.

“We should have collected full points against Tenaga Nasional and Olak (Old La Sallians Association of Klang) but settled for draws.”

Paul added that he wanted the players to stay focused for the entire 70 minutes in the remaining two matches.

“We have to beat BJSS Juniors’ today to seal a place in the quarter-finals.

“And I have warned the players not to take the sports school juniors lightly even though they are out of contention for a place in the quarter-finals,’’ he said.

The top six teams from Division Two and top two from Division Three will feature in the knockout stage.

Azlan Cup :: Ismail misses another goal-den opportunity

The just concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament turned out to be yet another disappointing outing for forward Ismail Abu.

The 25-year-old Pahang player had set the target to score in every match of the five-nation tournament in Ipoh but he had only one goal to show from Malaysia’s 4-1 win over Egypt.

Malaysia finished as the runners-up in the tournament after losing 1-3 to India in the final last Sunday. In other round-robin matches Malaysia beat Pakistan (3-2), lost to India (0-3) and drew with New Zealand (1-1).

Ismail, who has 110 international caps to his name, said: “I fired blanks last year in a seven-nation tournament. I was hoping to make an impression this year but only managed to get one miserable goal. I was a letdown again and this is definitely not good for my hockey career.”

Ismail scored four goals in the seven matches in a playing tour of South Korea last month. But when it comes to the tournament proper, he has failed to deliver and it is cause for concern ahead of the Asia Cup in Kuantan from May 9-16.

“We have a very important tournament coming up and I have less than a month to sharpen up my finishing. I have to make the chances count because the Asia Cup also serves as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup in New Delhi next year,’’ he said.

The champions get direct entry to the Finals and the next four teams will go into qualifying tournaments, which will be held in three venues in November.

For the Asia Cup, Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan and Oman while teams in Group B are defending champions India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

Monday, April 13, 2009

MHL :: Nur Insafi get green light to replace five players in knockout stage

Division Three champions Nur Insafi have been given the green light to replace five players for the knockout stage of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

The five players were involved in an accident last month and one of them, Mohd Fadhirul Razmin, died in the incident, which took place while they were on their way to attend a training session.

The other four — Mohd Fadli Zabidi, Sabir Ismail, Mohd Azrul and goalkeeper Mohd Hanif Kasman — suffered injuries and they will be out of action for some time.

The MHF competitions committee chairman, Datuk Abdul Rahim Mohamed Ariff said yesterday: “They can have replacements.

“But they cannot pick players who have taken part in the league, including those from teams who did not qualify for the knockout stage. They can register the players just before the knockout stage begins.”

The top six teams from Division Two and the top two from Division Three will feature in the knockout stage.

The draw and fixtures for the competition from the quarter-finals will be fixed next week.

The preliminary round will end this weekend but Nur Insafi have completed their fixtures.

Meanwhile, the competitions committee have decided to postpone the start of the proposed Open knockout tournament to next year.

The competition for districts and clubs affiliated to the MHF and state HAs is being introduced to allow the smaller clubs to play at the national level.

“We have already secured the sponsors but we are running short on time.

“In fact, the sponsors are keen to start this year. But we felt it better to start early next year to give the teams ample time to prepare,” said Rahim.

Beng Hai’s team still have long way to go before they can shine on world stage

As tests for the national hockey team, matches in the just concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament here served their purpose.

The team chalked up some inspired results but in reality, they still have a long way to go before they can claim that they are strong challengers on the world stage.

In the five-nation tournament, Malaysia lost twice to India — 0-3 in the round-robin match and 1-3 in the final. They beat Pakistan (3-2) and Egypt (4-1) and drew 1-1 with New Zealand.

The tournament that counts for coach Tai Beng Hai and his team is the Asia Cup in Kuantan next month. It offers the champions a direct entry into next year’s World Cup Finals in India and the next four teams get berths in qualifying tournaments in November.

The stakes are much higher and Beng Hai did not push the players too hard in Ipoh for fear of seeing more players coming down with injury.

“I hope to have at least five players more back in the team when we resume training on Thursday. We need more options to work immediately on the weak areas identified in Ipoh,” he said.

“We have not been able to hold on to our lead in the matches and unforced errors kept creeping back at some points.

“On the plus side our fitness level is good. We have a lot of work to do in making sure our structure is in place.”

Forward S. Selvaraju aggravated his knee injury in the match against New Zealand. But Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Mohamed Radzie, Fikri Bassar, Sallehin Abdul Ghani and Megat Azrafiq, who were not in the team for the tournament in Ipoh, will be available for selection.

Beng Hai has worked with the players for only three months thus far and he does not have much time before the team go to Kuantan for the Asia Cup scheduled for May 9-16.

“I know expectations will be there but we need patience. The players are trying hard. I cannot complain about this and over time, the players have to come up with consistently good performances,” he said.

In the eight-team Asia Cup, Pakistan and India are not in the same group as Malaysia but they have South Korea and Japan to contend with in the preliminary round. And asking the team to win the tournament is certainly a tall order.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Azlan Cup :: India juara kalahkan Malaysia

India muncul juara kali keempat Kejohanan Hoki Piala Sultan Azlan Shah ke-18 mengalahkan Malaysia 3-1 di Stadium Azlan Shah, Ipoh malam tadi.

India yang menduduki ranking ke-11 dunia pernah muncul juara kejohanan itu pada tahun 1985, 1991 dan 1995 lalu.

Kekalahan itu membuatkan Malaysia terus kempunan untuk menjulang piala yang diperkenalkan pada tahun 1983 itu.

Skuad bimbingan Tan Beng Hai yang menduduki ranking ke-15 dunia itu pernah muncul naib juara pada tahun 2007 dan 1985.

Apa pun, skuad negara berjaya mempamerkan persembahan mantap sejak awal permainan apabila Hafifihafiz Hanafi nyaris mendapat gol awal pada minit kedua tetapi tolakannya tersasar keluar.

Dalam keghairahan Malaysia menyerbu pintu lawan, India turut bangkit melakukan serangan balas.

Akhirnya, tolakan deras Arjun Halappa pada minit kelapan gagal diselamatkan oleh penjaga gol Malaysia, S. Kumar bagi gol pertama India.

Ketinggalan satu gol itu telah menyemarakkan semangat para pemain kebangsaan untuk mendapatkan gol penyamaan dengan melancarkan serangan yang bertali arus.

Dalam pada itu, New Zealand berjaya mengulangi kedudukan tahun lalu apabila mengalahkan Pakistan 2-1 bagi meraih tempat ketiga.

FIH :: FIH vow to review World Cup, Olympics qualifying system

The International Hockey Fe­­de­ration (FIH) will look at revie­wing the qualifying process for the World Cup and the Olympics.

Their president, Leandro Negre, said yesterday that he was not in favour of the present system where 18 teams are divided to go through three tournaments.

Only the continental champions and the hosts get an automatic berths.

Negre added that it would take some time before any changes could be made.

“But we must first look at the current system and study it in detail. It is not a good qualifying system with one team coming through from each of the three tournaments,” he said.

“I think the old system where there was one qualifying tournament for either the World Cup or the Olympics and having four or five qualifiers was the better option.”

Negre added that the costs of staging three qualifying tournaments was also very expensive and time consuming for the FIH.

“Countries may be able to host Olympic qualifiers with support from their Olympic councils. But for the World Cup, they will have to search for their own sponsors,” he said.

The current system was adopted after the 2006 World Cup qualifying tournament hosted by China.

The three qualifying tournaments for next year’s Finals in India will be held in November in Lille (France), Auckland (New Zealand) and Dubai (UAE).

Negre added that the system aimed at helping smaller teams to qualify failed to achieve its objective when top teams ended up having to play in qualifying tournaments.

He said that Germany were the good example when they played in the 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament after failing to gain an automatic berth in Europe. They went on to win the gold medal in the Beijing Games.

Negre added: “Argentina are also a top team and they failed in the Pan American Games last month. Now they will play in a qualifying tournament. How does this help the smaller teams?”

Azlan Cup :: Malaysians hold Kiwis to set up final date with India

Malaysia did exactly what they needed – hold New Zealand to a 1-1 draw – to qualify for their third Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final at the Azlan Shah Stadium here yesterday.

Malaysia will meet India, who beat Pakistan 2-1 yesterday, in today’s final.

The Malaysians’ other final appearances were in 1985 against India and 2007 against Australia.

The Indians, meanwhile, will be featuring in their sixth final, having won the title in 1985, 1991 and 1995.

In the match against New Zealand, Malaysia started without defender Engku Abdul Malek, while Chua Boon Huat only came in after the break.

The Malaysian defence was reshuffled, with Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Mohd Amin Rahim, Mohd Madzli Ikmar and Baljit Singh getting the nod.

The first-half did not offer much excitement other than the two penalty corners each side earned, though nothing came off them.

Malaysia began the second-half strongly, earning a penalty corner in the 37th minute. Again they were denied by Kiwi goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex.

The hosts finally got their breakthrough in the 48th minute when Boon Huat got his stick to the ball off a Mohd Amin pass in the D.

But one minute later the Kiwis were back on level terms when Nicholas Wilson scored with a field goal.

The India-Pakistan game, meanwhile, failed to live up to its hype.

India skipper Sandeep Singh was the hero when he scored both the goals to put his team in the final.

His first came in the 28th minute when he converted a penalty stroke. In the 60th minute, he struck again off a penalty corner direct attempt.

Pakistan’s lone reply came in the 50th minute when Mohamed Saqlian notched his first goal of the tournament off a field attempt.

Sandeep is the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals to his credit.

Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan questioned the two penalty corners which led to the goals.

“The umpires made mistakes. Those were not penalty corners,” said Shahid.

“Still, we are pleased with our young players and I believe that the result could have been different had we converted our chances.”

“The game was played at a slow pace as India needed only a draw to make the final. So they played at a slower pace.”

2010 World Cup :: New Delhi to host next year’s World Cup

Next year’s hockey World Cup will definitely be held in India.

International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Leandro Negre confirmed this after meeting the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) executive council here yesterday.

Negre had spent three days in New Delhi earlier this week touring the World Cup facilities and meeting with Indian officials.

He said FIH were not looking at relocating the World Cup to another country.

“I have to say that I am satisfied with the preparations in India and I can say with certainty that New Delhi will host the tournament next year,” he said.

“Of course security is a concern for us but that is not the only aspect that we look into.”

The media had reported last month that Malaysia might be asked to replace India as host for the World Cup.

Junior :: Defensive blunder denies Juniors victory over England

A late defensive error dashed the National Juniors’ hopes of a victory over England in the four-nation invitational hockey tournament in Seville on Friday.

The match ended 3-3.

Malaysia have one point from two matches, having lost 1-2 to hosts Spain on Thursday.

Against England, forward Faisal Saari drew first blood for Malaysia in the 23rd minute with a field goal but England equalised in the 40th minute.

Nine minutes later, the Juniors went ahead again through Mohd Izzat Mohd Rahim off a penalty corner. England hit back to draw level again in the 57th minute.

Forward Izwan Firdaus gave the Juniors the lead with six minutes to go but a defensive mistake in the 67th minute allowed England to snatch a point.

National Juniors coach K. Rajan said they should have collected full points against England.

“My boys played better compared to the game against Spain. We took our chances well and victory was in our grasp,” he said. “But a defensive blunder denied us a win.”

Rajan hopes his defenders will buck up when they face favourites Germany next.

“The Germans are the team to beat as they outplayed Spain 5-1,” said Rajan.

Spain and England are in the same group with Malaysia for the Junior World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Malaysia and Singapore from June 7-21. The other teams in Malaysia’s group are South Korea and the United States.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Azlan Cup :: Indians, Kiwis throw fight for final spots open

India and New Zealand played to a 2-2 draw in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament yesterday and the result threw the fight for places in the final wide open.

Malaysia lead the standings on six points after three matches — one point more than India and New Zealand.

The final round-robin matches will be played tomorrow and India have to beat Pakistan to qualify for the final on Saturday. New Zealand have to beat Malaysia to claim the berth while a draw will be enough for the hosts to play in the final.

Yesterday, India again relied on penalty corners for goals and skipper Sandeep Singh scored a goal in each half.

The first came in the 27th minute after the Kiwis had taken an early lead with a field goal by Richard Petherick in the eighth minute.

Sandeep gave India the lead in the 48th minute from their fifth penalty corner. But a late rally by New Zealand earned them the equaliser in the 63rd minute through Joseph Barth Holomew.

Both sides had several good chances to get the goals but the goalkeepers Kyle Pontifex and Baljit Singh were not to be beaten again.

Indian coach Harender Singh said that they would be up to the task to beat Pakistan tomorrow.

“That is the only way we can qualify for the final. It is always an emotional match when we play against Pakistan. It will be no different on Saturday,” he said.

“The players know that they have to play much better than they did today to get the result. We were not strong enough to hold on to our lead and paid the price for some poor defending.”

Pakistan secured their first win of the tournament, beating Egypt 4-0 to stay in the hunt for a podium finish.

Shakeel Abassi scored the first hat-trick of the tournament with efforts in the 18th, 43rd and 67th minutes after fullback Mohamed Imran had given Pakistan the lead in the 14th minute with a penalty corner goal.

Azlan Cup :: Defeat by India exposes Malaysia’s lack of game variety

Malaysia’s 0-3 defeat by India in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Wednesday brought home some harsh realities to the team.

It showed that at the top level, Malaysia still lack variety in their play and also in the set pieces. And coach Tai Beng Hai admitted that they were yet near to finding a comprehensive playing combination.

“I only have this team for about three months. So we have some way to go. We lost to India but we get to learn in matches like this. We cannot be predictable in how we play,” he said.

Malaysia, with six points from three matches, are still in contention for a place in the final on Saturday. They have to beat New Zealand tomorrow in their final round-robin fixture to qualify.

Beng Hai added that they had to look for more penalty corner options as their usual drag flick had become too predictable.

“Our drag flick needs to be done faster and more accurately and it is important to add more options,” he said.

“Mohamed Amin Rahim is the main flicker. Engku Abdul Malek provides one option with a direct hit. We are working on other variations and we will test their effectiveness in matches here.”

In three matches thus far, Malaysia scored seven goals and let in six. They defeated Pakistan (3-2) and Egypt (4-1). Only one goal came from a field attempt by Mohamed Shahrun Nabil in the match against Pakistan. Amin scored with two direct flicks while Engku Malek made one with a direct hit. The others were from penalty corner deflections by Chua Boon Huat (2) and Azlan Misron.

“I think we are steadily developing a certain style of play and the players need more matches to get comfortable with it,” said Beng Hai.

“We have a few players more back in KL, who have yet to recover fully from injuries. I feel we will have more options when they return. But they can only expect to be back if they are fit. The current players have showed good commitment and I am sure they will fight hard to keep their places in the team. This is good, healthy competition in the team.”

Among the players left out of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament are Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi and Radzie Abdul Rahim.

The priority tournament for the team is the Asia Cup in Kuantan from May 9-16 where the champions get a place in the World Cup Finals in India next year and the next four go into qualifying tournaments in November.

Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan and Oman and Group B has India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

“We need to keep working harder on our the game. As long as the players understand their roles, we can continue to go forward,” said Beng Hai.

Azlan Cup :: Egyptians determined to erase two decades of misery

Egypt have for the last two decades played second fiddle to South Africa in the African continent. And they will be aiming to knock their rivals off the top in the African Nations Cup in Ghana in July.

That tournament offers the winners a direct entry to the World Cup Finals in New Delhi next year and the second-placed team will go into a qualifying tournament in November.

Egypt coach Jerzy Wybieralski said that they were grateful to get to play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament because it provided quality matches to help them prepare for the task to dethrone South African.

“They are the ones who always qualify for the Olympics and World Cup Finals over the last two decades. We are confident that we will do well this year and hopefully we can emerge as the African champions in July,” he said.

Jerzy added that Kenya were also strong contenders and he admitted that it would be tough for Egypt to achieve the target.

The former Polish international with four World Cup Finals appearances to his name from 1975 to 1982 took up the job to handle the Egyptian team two years ago.

In Ipoh, the Egyptians have surprised everyone with their fast brand of hockey. They snatched a 2-2 draw against India in the opening match before losing 1-4 to Malaysia. Yesterday, they chalked up another creditable result, a 1-1 draw against New Zealand.

The draw with India should not come as a surprise. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Jerzy was in change of the Poland team and in their last group match, he masterminded a 1-1 draw against India.

The result put the Indians out of the semi-finals and the equaliser came in the came in the last minute just like it did here on Sunday.

“That draw was certainly not popular with the Indians. They were sure of beating us. But that is how the game goes in international matches. You cannot take any team for granted,’ said Jerzy.

India’s current coach Harender Singh and team manager Dhanraj Pillay will remember the match against the Poles.

Then, Harender was the assistant coach to V. Bhaskaran while Dhanraj was a forward in the team.

Azlan Cup :: India burst Malaysia’s bubble by scoring thrice

Malaysia’s winning run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament came to end when they lost 0-3 to India here yesterday.

The Indians were a shade better and made better use of their set pieces to carve out the win at the Azlan Shah Stadium.

The result kept both teams very much in the hunt for a place in the final on Sunday.

India have two matches more to play against New Zealand and Pakistan while Malaysia will wrap up their round-robin fixtures against New Zealand on Saturday.

Malaysia’s started the match with the same line-up against Egypt on Monday but this time they went into defensive mode.

Arjun Halappa gave India the lead from an indirect penalty corner hit in the 19th minute.

The Indians kept up the pressure and it did not take too long for them to score the second goal in the 31st minute off their third penalty corner and skipper Sandeep Singh made the conversion with a direct flick.

The second half was more evenly contested but the Indians kept up the attack to stay in front.

In the 62nd minute, Gurvinder Singh made sure of a convincing win with a field goal.

Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai admitted that the Indians were the better side.

“We were not outplayed at all ... they used their chances better. Once they took the lead, we were left chasing and they effectively closed down our attacking options,” he said.

“It was a good lesson for the players and we will gain from this exposure. India are the top team and there is nothing to be ashamed about this defeat.”

In an earlier match, Egypt again produced a surprise result, this time holding New Zealand to a 1-1 draw.

The Egyptians, who also drew with India, took the lead in the 37th minute with Ahmed Abd El Hakiem scoring a field goal.

The Kiwis then stepped up the pace and in a counter attack in the 52nd minute, they were rewarded with a field goal by Steven Edwards.

Malaysia: S. Kumar, Chua Boon Huat, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Azlan Misron, Mohd Shahrun Nabil, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, C. Baljit Singh, Ismail Abu, Kelvinder Singh, Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Nor, Engku Abdul Malek.

Reserves: Khairulnizam Ibrahim, S. Selvaraju, Hafifihafiz Hanafi, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib, Baljit Singh S.

India: Baljit Singh, Dilip Tirkey, Sandeep Singh, Arjun Halappa, Prabodh Tirkey, Prabhjot Singh, Sardar Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Tushar Khandker, Shivender Singh.

Reserves: V.S. Vinay, Bharat Chikara, Ajitesh Roy, S.V. Sunil, Ignace Tirkey.

Div 2 :: Perfect BJSS in seventh heaven

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) chalked up an impressive 4-0 win over Anderson at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh yesterday to seal the title in Division Two (Under-19) of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

They have an unassailable maximum of 30 points from 10 consecutive wins with a match to play against Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) next Wednesday.

It was the seventh consecutive time since 2003 that BJSS bagged the national junior league title.

Yesterday, BJSS took an early fourth-minute lead when Arief Iskandar Khamdan deflected in a cross from Mohd Hasrul Zari. They kept up the pressure and Dangerous Lee increased the lead in the 32nd minute, taking his tally of goals to 11 in 10 matches.

Fahed Saifullah Shahrom Jamil sealed the match for BJSS with a brace in the 45th and 55th minutes.

BJSS coach S. Prakash was delighted with his team’s efforts.

“Although my boys have won the title, I still want them to go out and maintain the 100% win record in the final fixture and not take things easy against BPSS,” he said.

“Not dropping a point will be a further boost for the knock-out stage, starting on April 19. We will be out to win the double again.”

Azlan Cup :: Malaysia’s interim coach under scrutiny in tie against Pakistan

Malaysia’s interim coach Tai Beng Hai faces a baptism of fire when his team take on Pakistan in the opening tie of the 18th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey competition today.

The tournament, which will be held until April 12 at the Azlan Shah Stadium here, will also see India, Egypt and New Zealand in the fray.

The former international defender had served as assistant coach to the National Juniors and the senior team from 2003-2007.

He was then made chief coach of the National Juniors in 2007 but quit after a run of poor results.

He had a short stint as assistant coach of the national women’s team last year before being handed his current assignment in January.

Although he was named as interim coach with Nor Saiful Zaini, Beng Hai has been given the mandate to handle the national team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Asia Cup next year.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have put on hold their plans to hire a foreign coach so as to give Beng Hai a chance to prove his worth.

Simply put, Beng Hai can nail the job on a permanent basis if he manages to win the Asia Cup or, at least, perform well in both the meets.

A final in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is not a tall order considering the standard of the oppositions in the meet.

World No. 7 New Zealand are the top ranked team, followed by Pakistan (No. 8). Tenth-placed India are also potential finalists.

Beng Hai said he had no problem with the final as the immediate target.

“Frankly, the Asia Cup next month is the more important tournament. So we need to keep that objective in mind.

“The Azlan Shah Cup offers us a chance to take a closer look at India and Pakistan,” he said.

“This tournament will also help us to finalise our playing options and also to ensure that our structure is in place.”

The coach also stressed that the players in this team were not automatic choices for the Asia Cup.

“The 18 players will have a head start ... that’s all. There are other players who are still injured and have been left out as a precaution. I want all the players to understand that they cannot take their places for granted,” he added.

Among the injured players who are still very much in contention include Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi and Mohd Radzie Abdul Rahim.

Beng Hai has also been working on his players’ fitness since taking over in January and he is happy to note their improved physical condition.

“Lots of time the lack of fitness has caused our downfall. “When players get tired, they tend to make mistakes. But we have put in a lot of work to build up their fitness levels,” he said.

Beng Hai is also aware that the three Asian teams will be using the tournament here to spy on their rivals ahead of next month’s Asia Cup.

The winner of the Asia Cup will get to play in the World Cup.

“The other teams will videotape the matches and try to see where our weaknesses are. We will be doing the same. I want to see good performances all-round and for the players to follow our style of play closely.

“Then we will know if we are heading in the right direction,” said Beng Hai, who also knows very well that he, and his team, will be under scrutiny and that the critics are just waiting to pounce on any shortcomings.

Azlan Cup :: Pakistanis confident of winning start in opening match against hosts

Pakistan are confident of a winning start against Malaysia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup here today despite having to rely on a mixed group of youth and experienced players.

Coach Shahid Ali Khan said the team had shown good performances and “the players are all fired up for the tournament”.

“We respect Malaysia but we also know that they are going through a rebuilding phase as well,” he said yesterday.

“We expect a tough match and it will be good for my young players to start off with a win.”

The Pakistanis, who arrived here on Thursday, had a late work-out yesterday.

Shahid said his focus was the Asia Cup next month and admitted that the team here “is not our full side”.

“We will definitely make some changes in May as the Asia Cup is too important to be taken lightly. This is the first big tournament for the players since the Beijing Olympics. It will be a good test for them,” he said.

Shahid added that he would be banking on the return of four senior players to spearhead their challenge in the Asia Cup, which will be held in Kuantan from May 9-16. The four are penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Wassim Ahmad and Ghazanffar Ali.

“These four will give us a real edge and I feel we will be better at the Asia Cup. We lack experience and that is why I need to make the changes. Only one team will qualify for the World Cup from Kuantan and we want to be that team,” he said emphatically.

Div 2 :: BJSS forward sets a very high standard

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) forward Faridzul Afiq Mohd surely sets a very high standard.

The BJSS ace was far from pleased despite scoring a hat-trick in his team’s 5-1 thrashing of Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) in Division Two (Under-19 category) of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) on Friday.

“I have represented BJSS for five consecutive years and this is the first time I have netted a hat-trick. But it’s not a big deal as much younger players have scored three goals before,” said Faridzul, who will turn 17 on Oct 30.

He felt that as a senior player he should have got his hat-trick against the weaker teams much earlier.

“Last year I scored eight goals in the league but this season I have only managed six in eight matches. Now, the pressure is on me to deliver the goals in our last three league matches,” said Faridzul.

Double champions BJSS will face former champions Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) at the Tun Razak Stadium today before wrapping up their fixtures against Anderson on Wednesday and Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) on Friday.

BJSS lead the standings with 24 points after eight matches, two ahead of Bandar Penawar Sports School.

Azlan Cup :: No surprises in final squad

There were no surprises when Malaysia named their final squad of 18 yesterday for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament.

Four players were dropped after the friendly match against New Zealand and they were goalkeeper Fairul Wanasir, defender Megat Azrafiq and forwards Herwan Pami and Fekri Basaar.

The Squad

Goalkeepers: S. Kumar, Khairul Nizam Ibrahim.

Defenders: Mohd Amin Rahim, Mohd Madzli Ikmar (capt), Mohd Sukri Mutalib, Engku Malik Engku Mohamed, Baljit Singh Sarjab, Baljit Singh Charun.

Midfielders: Mohd Shahrun Nabil, Jivan Mohan, Kelvinder Singh, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor, Azlan Misron.

Forwards: S. Selvaraju, Ismail Abu, Chua Boon Huat, Hafifi Hafiz, Amerullah Aziz.

Div 2 :: BJSS reserve forward on fire

Forward Shahzrul Irwan Nazli is only a reserve in the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) team. But the Perak player is on fire — having scored four goals in seven matches for the double champions.

Shahzrul, who is making his debut for BJSS, said that he was delighted with his performance in Division Two (Under-19 category) of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

“I don’t get to play the entire match but I still managed to score more goals than the other senior forwards. And this augurs well for my hockey career,’’ said Shahzrul, who will turn 16 on Aug 27.

Shahzrul earned a call-up to the national Under-16 training squad last week following his performance in the national tournament for the age-group in Seremban two weeks ago. He scored three goals for Perak.

Shahzrul added that he hoped BJSS coach S. Prakash would make him a first-choice forward in the remaining four matches in the league.

BJSS lead the Division Two standings with the maximum 21 points from seven matches — two points more than Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS).

BJSS will play against former champions Petaling Jaya City Council at the Tun Razak Stadium today and they will take on Olak at the same venue on Sunday. The last two matches for BJSS are against Anderson on Wednesday and against BPSS next Friday.

Shahzrul added that the pressure would be on them to keep up their winning streak.

“It’s not going to be easy to win all four matches in a week,’’ he said.