S. KUHAN: Will play a big role for Sapura in the semi-finals of the MHL.
THE Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Premier Division semi-finals today will see four equally balanced teams battling for the TNB Cup, which comes with an RM60,000 carrot to aspire the champions.
The pretenders fell by the wayside in the quarters, where some atrocious aggregate scores were registered, but quality is assured in the last-four stage.
League champions and early favourites Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club will meet Sapura, while Tenaga Nasional against Maybank and the fans can expect some exciting hockey at the Tun Razak Stadium.
In fact, to encourage fans to travel to the Stadium, instead of sitting on their comfortable sofas and watching live on television, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will arrange for lucky draws which could land lucky fans with motorcycles and flight tickets.
“The MHF would like to invite hockey fans to the stadium, where entrance is free, but they can buy lucky draw numbers for RM2 each.
“We have two Modenas motorcycles, sponsored by DRB Hicom, and 10 AirAsia tickets to local and foreign des tinations, as well as hockey sticks and national hockey players’ jerseys as prizes,” said MHF secretary Hashim Yusoff.
The lucky draw tickets will be on sale from the second leg onwards at the Tun Razak Stadium, and can also be pur chased at the MHF office in Bukit Jalil after that. The draw will be made during the final on Feb 12.
KLHC, with nine national players, will be team to beat: “I have noticed that when teams play us, they somehow being out their best, and so I believe even with some of the best players in the country, it will not be easy for us in the semi- finals,” said KLHC coach R. Vivekanandan.
Sapura stand in the League champions path, and skipper S. Kuhan believes strategy, and not quality of players will determine the outcome at this stage.
“Our coach (S. Prakash) has come up with a sound plan for the first leg, and I believe KLHC are in for a fight of their lives. Obviously Sapura players as a whole, are slower than KLHC players, and we can’t match them in speed.
“So, part of the plan which I can reveal today is that we will slow down the match and play possession hockey to bring the match to our level,” said Kuhan, a former national skipper.
Then there was good news for Maybank and bad news for Tenaga Nasional in their other semi-finals.
Maybank defender K. Gobinathan, who was out with a pulled hamstring in the quarters, will be back in action.
“Gobi had a 7cm tear and we missed him in the quarters, but after he went for an injection to seal it, he has recovered enough to help his team-mates in the semis,” said Maybank coach S. Velappan.
Without Gobi, a former international, the Maybank de fense was porous and they had a tough time against a young UniKL-Ibil outfit in the quarters.
As for Tenaga, who like Maybank have been consistently paying in the MHL since its inception in 1987, they lost their skipper Sallehin Ghani to a fracture, thrusting Tajol Rosli into the limelight.
“Missing a steady hand like Sallehin is a big blow for us, and taking over form him is a big responsibility. But I am game, because I have dedicated team-mates who are de termined to play in the final and make a go for the TNB,” said Tajol, a former national striker.
FIXTURES: TODAY -- Semi-finals, First Leg: Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club v Sapura (4.30pm); Tenaga Nasional v Maybank (6.30pm).
TOMORROW -- Semi-finals, Second Leg: Maybank v Tenaga Nasional (4.30pm), Sapura v Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (6.30pm).
All Matches at the Tun Razak Stadium, and entrance is free.