Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sapura walking on thin ice

WITH three foregone conclusions, the return leg of the Milo Cup Junior Hockey League knock-out stage spotlight will be on the Sapura and MBI Anderson match at the Kuala Lumpur HA Stadium today.
Sapura, highly touted to seal a comfortable win in the first leg after an impressive show in Division One, could only hold MBI Anderson to a 1-1 draw.
They were a pale shadow of the unbeaten team which lifted the Division Two title by scoring 42 goals and letting on only two in Group A.
In comparison, MBI Anderson struggled in Division One, and finished fourth after scoring 28 goals and letting in a massive 27.
League champions SSTMI Thunderbolts are cruising on the road to semi-finals after they hammered Petaling Jaya Municipal Council 7-1, while UniKL Young Guns’ run is also unstoppable after they beat USM Juniors 6-1.
Bukit Jalil Sports School have also firmly rooted themselves in the semi-finals after a 6-1 show against Malacca High School.
“It was simply amazing on how my players muffed four sitters to make their return leg an uphill battle. I can’t even call the misses unlucky, because even novice players could have scored off those situations,” lamented Sapura coach I. Vickneswaran.
And with two players suspended from the second leg after picking up eight demerit points, Sapura will miss Fadzli Zulkifli and Farid Zuki today.
“The situation does not look favourable, but I have plans on how to make amends on Sunday, and hopefully, the players stick to my game-plan,” said Vickneswaran.
Another unhappy official was UniKL Young Guns’s manager Amir Azhar.
“The win (6-1) look comfortable enough, but I am not satisfied with the way my team played in the first leg. They were floating in and out of the match, and all the departments were not at their best.
“We can’t afford this kind of attitude in the remaining knock-out matches, if we want to lay hands on the Milo Cup,” said Amir.
UniKL will also miss the services of Haniff Saidin, while BJSS’ Norshafiq Sumantri and PJCC’s Faiz Haiqal will not see action in the return leg due to demerit points.
TODAY -- Second Leg: Bukit Jalil Sports School (6) v Malacca High School (1) (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 4pm), USM Juniors (1) v UniKL Young Guns (6) (KLHA, 4pm), Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (1) v SSTMI Thunderbolts (7) (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 6pm), MBI Anderson (1) v Sapura (1) (KLHA, 6pm).
Note: First leg scores in parenthesis.

A toss between India and France

France 1 Canada 1..
India 4 Poland: 2 (half-time: 1-1)

Italy 4 Singapore 0


India was already qualified for the Final on Sunday, but Poland could still overtake France for the second berth in the Final with a win or a tie tonight.
India was all over Poland in the first fifteen minutes of play, peppering the Polish goal left and right but without reaching the target, or denied by an excellent Mariusz Chyla in the Polish goal.
Poland held tight and surprised the Indian defense on their first attack, earning a penalty-corner. They used an excellent option, Miroslaw Juszczak faking the shot before sliding the ball to Tomasz Dutkiewicz who slammed it in goal over the head of a ducking defender.
India immediately resumed their outrageous domination, but could not capitalize on their multiple chances, including on a number of penalty-corners.
It is only in the 25th minute that Sandeep Singh finally managed a decent attempt, slotting his flick high in the net over Mariusz Chyla.
Indian goal-keeper (and captain) Bharat Chetri nearly thumbled a ball in the dying second of the period, much to the displeasure of his defenders, but half-time was reached on the tied score (1-1) which, if standing until the end, would allow Poland to grab the second Final berth from France.
India continued their incredible series of narrow misses and miss-trapping of penalty-corners in second period, much to the growing concern of the crowd.
Finally Shivendra Singh deflected the ball from a position where it would have been difficult to miss the goal, giving a narrow lead to India. However, Poland immediately forced a penalty-corner and scored on a passive Indian defense by Miroslaw Juszczak to tie the score again at 2-2!
Raghunath Vokkaliga Ramachandra replaced Sandeep Singh on the next penalty-corner and gave back the lead to India, forcing Poland to throw caution to the wind to score again, but it was India who scored the final goal, with a penalty-corner in the final second of the match.
The final win for India (4-2) allows France to stay ahead of Poland in the standings. The Final will therefore be between India and France, while Poland will play Canada for 3rd place.
Player of the Match was Mariusz Chyla, goal-keeper for Poland.
Schedule for Sunday February 26:
15h00: (5th-6th) Italy vs. Singapore
17h30: (3rd-4th) Poland vs. Canada
20h00: (Final) India vs.France (winner qualifies for 2012 Olympic Games in London)

Rani the Indian Queen..

The winner: The Indians are a adelighted lot after Ritu Rani's goal took the host past Italy. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

RITU Rani scores the all-important match winner
In a desperate situation, the Indian women's hockey team knew that it had to soothe its nerves and bolster its determination before taking on Italy in the final round robin league match of the Olympic qualifier.
The host barely managed to handle the pressure before edging past Italy 1-0 and reaching the summit clash against South Africa, at the National Stadium here on Friday.
After completing its league engagements, India gathered 10 points from five matches.
Ritu Rani scored the solitary goal in India's emotional victory, overall the seventh win over the same opponent, in front of the highly supportive home crowd.
India made a circumspective start before invading the rival citadel. However, it struggled to find harmony and lacked the conviction in executing its attacks. It wasted several chances, including four penalty corners, before the break.
The robust Italian defence closed the gaps effectively to frustrate the Indians.
Left winger Anuradha Devi, with her firmly-wrapped left thigh, was brave enough to shrug off her hamstring injury and take the field in the important match. She, however, clearly missed her rhythm.
Italy, placed second in the table before the match with eight points and needing at least a draw to play the final, never missed an opportunity to attack the Indian post. Nevertheless, it could not beat the home side's defence, led by Mukta Prava Barla and Subhadra Pradhan, which lifted its performance to make some quick interceptions and timely clearances.
The Indian backline showed its toughness to stop six short corners, which included two in the nerve-wracking final three minutes.
The Indians continued their quest for the first goal and tasted success in the 55th minute. Jaspreet Kaur launched a powerful flick off the sixth penalty corner and an alert Ritu Rani made no mistake in putting the rising rebound into the cage.
The Italians objected to the goal on the ground of dangerous play by Ritu. However, the umpire upheld the decision after consulting with her on-field colleague.
Eight minutes before the final hooter, the home team had another beautiful opportunity but Poonam Rani could not put her stick onto the fine 25-yard slapshot from Asunta Lakra.
The Italians pressed hard for the equalizer, which would have placed them in the final. However, it could not get the better of the Indian defence, which exhibited its steely resolve to save blushes for their team, which enjoyed the whole-hearted backing of the hockey loving spectators.
In another match, Ukraine beat Poland 1-0 to register its second win and make itself eligible to play the classification match for the third and fourth places against the Italy.
South Africa, boosted by Dirkie Chamberlain's hat-trick, rallied to hand Canada a 4-1 defeat and finish at the top of the table with 13 points.
The results: Ukraine 1 (Olena Ivakhnenko-28) bt Poland 0; South Africa 4 (Sulette Damons-23; Dirkie Chamberlain-41, 60, 62) bt Canada 1 (Thea Culley-16); India 1 (Ritu Rani-55) bt Italy 0.