Saturday, March 12, 2011

No advantage for any

CHARITY Shield holders Tenaga Nasional and League champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) have only themselves to blame for a poor show in the first leg of the TNB Cup at the Tun Razak Stadium on Friday.
Tenaga took a 2-0 lead before releasing the grip to allow Sapura to draw level, while KLHC came had to come from behind to secure a slim 2-1 win against Yayasan Negri Sembilan.
And today, all four teams will take to the field again, and there is no advantage for any from the first leg.
YNS Pakistan import Shakeel Abbasi, who played a pivotal role to deny Malaysia a gold medal in the Asian Games, was disappointed with his side's first leg performance.
"We had more than enough chances to beat KLHC, but did not take it. Now we will have to play another gruelling match, and by my reading, we might just upset the formbook," said Shakeel.
YNS finished fifth in the League, while KLHC were the champions. The score in the league highly favoured KLHC as they beat Yayasan 6-3 and 7-2.
"We have a good set of foreign players (nine of them) and our Malaysian players are not the best in the country, but still, they played their hearts out and that is what matters in a team sport," said Shakeel.
KLHC have the lion's share of current and former internationals, as well as Junior World Cup players, but they were a jaded side in the first half.
In the other semi-finals, Sapura are quietly confident that they will play in the final.
"It is back to square one as both sides have no advantage after the first encounter. I feel my players are game to give another rousing performance, as only 70 minutes separate us from the final," said Sapura coach I. Vickneswaran.
Redzuan Ponirin, a former international, will sit out the second leg after picking up a card on Friday and Sapura will miss the work-horse for sure.
But Tenaga have a bigger problem at hand, as their No 1 Penalty corner flicker Amin Rahim will not be able to play for at least another six weeks.
"I tore a tendon, and can hardly walk. The MHL season is over for me, and hopefully I recover in time to play in the Azlan Shah Cup (May 5-15)," lamented Amin Rahim.
Amin's absence is a boon for Junior World Cup eight-goal scorer Faizal Saari. Faizal, who scored the first Tenaga goal against Sapura, will get another chance to consolidate his position as the No 3 penalty corner flicker for Malaysia.
The No 2 is Radzi Rahim, who has been an asset to KLHC in the League.
TODAY: Tenaga Nasional (2) v Sapura (2) (Tun Razak Stadium, 6pm), Yayasan Negri Sembilan (1) v Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (2) (Tun Razak Stadium, 8pm).
# First leg scores in parenthesis.