When the TNB Malaysian Hockey League got underway, many had written off defending champions KL Hockey Club, especially when they lost six national players to Terengganu HT.
But champions are made and not born, and with that in mind, manager George Koshy and coach K. Dharmaraj started building the team again and in that process made some intelligent signings, especially foreign players.That was not all for even the youngsters turned out to be key players in their quest to retain the titles they had won. And today part of that journey for redemption was completed when KLHC defeated Maybank 4-2 to retain the TNBMHL league title at the USM Stadium in Penang.
What made it more impressive was the fact that KLHC has retained the league title with two matches to spare and for Koshy, this is the first step.
"It is always good to win and more importantly play well in the process. No doubt that we were written off but I guess that only spurred the players to play better and as a result we have the league title in the bag," said Koshy.
"But we are not about to take our foot off the pedal as we intend to keep the momentum going and play our best team in the remaining two matches. The knockout stage is a totally new ball game and we will take it one match at a time.
"It was a very competitive league and really it is always difficult to defend a title. I am pround of what the players have done but there is still unfinished business as so far as I am concerned."
Indeed the celebrations by the KLHC players were muted and Chua Boon Huat summed it up: " We have to forget the win and focus on defending the TNB Cup."
For mayban coach Wallace Tan, the failure to land the league title was a dissapointment but all is not lost.
"We have to try win the runner up spot and to do that we need to win the remaining matches. It was a good performance today but we failed to make use of the chances that we created," said Wallace.
KLHC took an early lead as Muhammad Imran converted a penalty corner in the 3rd minute. A brilliant reverse stick hit by Akhtar Ali in the 15th minute doubled KLHC's advantage.
But a deflection by Imran past his keeper Roslan Jamaluddin gave Maybank a lifeline in the 26h minute. And seconds before te halftime hooter, Shakeel Abbasi put Maybank on level terms.
KLHC were undeterred ad went 3-2 ahead through Muhammad Umar Bhutta in the 48th minute before Muhammad Najib Hassan made sure of the title with a goal in the 61st minute.