Tuesday September 18, 2012
Coach Nor Saiful: Itís an open affair now and every match is like a final
By S. RAMAGURU
KUALA LUMPUR: Just over a week ago, defending champions KL Hockey Club (KLHC) were threatening to run away with the Premier Division title in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
All that changed when they lost 4-2 to Tenaga Nasional on Friday and drew 1-1 with Sapura – a team they had earlier thrashed 5-0 – two days later.
The title race has now been thrown wide open with Tenaga (14 points) holding a one-point lead over KLHC following the completion of the first six matches.
Sapura (10 points) and Maybank (8) are third and fourth respectively but even they will fancy their title chances now.
Tenaga could have opened up a four-point lead if Maybank had not reined them in with a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
“It’s an open affair now and every match is going to be like a final,” said Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini.
KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj is still wondering what went wrong with his star-studded team, especially in the draw with Sapura on Sunday.
“Tenaga’s draw with Maybank has thrown us a lifeline. A one-point lead is nothing. We hope our players will bounce back from their poor performance last week,” he said.
Sapura may be an aging side but they clearly dominated KLHC on Sunday.
Their coach, K. Balakrishnan, attributed it to a change in strategy.
“We were not well prepared when we played KLHC in the first match,’ he said.
“It was different on Sunday. We pressured them and the early goal was a bonus. It opened up the game. The race isn’t over yet ... we will see how far we can go.”
The top four teams will make the semi-finals for the overall title.
Univesiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and Nur Insafi-Perak look destined to finish at the bottom of the pile. But, with last weekend’s matches producing some shock results, they might still be able to stage a late rally for a semis berth.
UniKl won their first match when they defeated Nur Insafi and play Sapura and Tenaga Nasional this week. These are matches they must win, otherwise they will be making up the numbers.
As for the individual performer of the week, it has to be none other Faisal Saari who scored four goals last weekend to take his tally to 13. He looks a sure bet for the top scorer’s award.
But Saiful and his Tenaga team-mates will be more interested in ensuring they win the Premier Division title.
The matches this weekend will further narrow down the list of contenders although everything points to the title run-in going down to the wire.