Thursday October 4, 2012
Sapura: We’re underdogs
By AftAR Singh
KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura are playing down their chances against Tenaga Nasional in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) semi-finals first-leg match following injuries to key players Azreen Rizal Nasir and S. Kuhan.
The two teams will do battle at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
National forward Azreen suffered a knee injury in the match against Maybank on Sept 23 and has been ruled out of action.
Thirty-six-year-old veteran Kuhan, who has been playing in the MHL since 1995, is nursing a hamstring injury.
No wonder Sapura coach K. Balakrishnan is not too hopeful of his team’s chances. To make matters worse, two Sapura playes – defender Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi and forward Jason Lee Jung-seon of South Korea – may be suspended for the return-leg match on Sunday if they are shown either a yellow or two green cards in today’s first-leg match.
Megat and Jason have already served one-match suspensions but the demerit points will be carried into the knockout stage.
“We have lost the services of experienced national forward Azreen, who also did not play in the last two league matches,” said Balakrishnan yesterday.
“Kuhan did not train on Tuesday and we are not sure if he can recover in time for tomorrow’s match.
“The injuries and the fear of collecting cards may affect our performance against Tenaga.”
With Azreen out, Sapura will be relying on other forwards like Jason, Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin, Mahinder Singh and Mohd Faizal Daud to get the goals.
Balakrishnan is also working on his team’s penalty conversion rate, which has yielded fewer than 10 goals in 10 matches.
“We are working on it. However, the pressure will be on us to get the better of Tenaga, who are favourites to reach the final,” he said.
“Although they will not have the services of top scorer Faizal Saari, they still have reliable replacements.”
The 21-year-old Faizal is currently the top scorer with 18 goals but he won’t feature in today’s match as he has to serve out a one-match suspension for having collected eight demerit points.
In the league matches, Sapura lost 1-0 in the first round match and drew 2-2 in the second match.