Monday, November 22, 2010

5-0 warm-up against Thailand

THE Malaysian women’s hockey team wasted a handful of chances but still beat Thailand 5-0 in their final round-robbin match yesterday.
Malaysia finished fifth in the seven-team tournament, and will play Thailand again in the fifth-sixth classification match on Wednesday.
So, the match yesterday was a good warm-up for the Malaysian ladies in their quest to finish fifth.
The Malaysian goals were scored by Noor Ruhaini (24th), Nor Bokhari (32nd, 70th), Norfaraha Hashim (33rd) and Norazlin Sumantri (37th).
RESULTS: Malaysia 5 Thailand 0, South Korea 2
(Kim Jong-eun 41, 65) Japan 0, China x India x.

Banking on penalty corners

RIVALS are banking on their powerful penalty corner flickers to deliver when the Asian Games men’s field hockey semi-finals are played on Tuesday.
The strongly-built drag flickers, who take set-piece shots at the goal with lightening speed, have not disappointed so far in the 10-nation competition at the Aoti Hockey Centre.
Six of the top eight scorers in the preliminary league are penalty corner exponents with India’s Sandeep Singh leading the charge with 10 goals.
Veteran Sohail Abbas of Pakistan has six, while China’s Liu Yixian, the South Korean duo of Jang Jong-Hyun and Nam Hyun-Woo and Muhammad Imran of Pakistan have five each.
The two exceptions are Malaysian striker Azlan Misron, who has scored six goals and Korean forward Seo Jong-Ho, who has five.
“Penalty corners are the most important aspect of modern hockey,” said the 35-year-old Abbas, whose Pakistan clash with defending champions South Korea in the first semi-final.
“If the strikers don’t score themselves, they try to make sure the team earns penalty corners. It’s all part of the game.” Abbas, who was recalled for the Asiad after being left out of last month’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, is the world’s leading scorer with 316 goals.
But the Koreans, seeking a hat-trick of titles after winning in 2002 and 2006, say Abbas’ mighty presence does not worry them.
“Sohail is a wonderful striker, but our own Jang and Nam are equally good,” said Korean striker Seo Jong-Ho. “We also have a lot of faith in our goalkeeper.” Nam added South Korea was fortunate to have two solid penalty corner hitters in their team.
“It helps us to plan better,” he said. “We like to keep the other side guessing whether Jang or I will take the hit.” India, the only team with an all-win record in the league who meet Malaysia in the other semi-final, owe their success to Sandeep’s precise drag-flicks.
“Our penalty corner strategy has worked out well so far, but we must try something different in the semi-final because the other side would have studied videos of our matches,” Sandeep said.
India have been tested just once in four games when they beat Pakistan 3-2, where Sandeep scored twice and Abbas’ lone penalty corner shot was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.
But Indian captain Rajpal Singh said it would be dangerous to depend entirely on Sandeep’s prowess to see them past Malaysia.
“They are a good team and we must take all the chances that come our way,” he said. “Winning all league matches won’t count if we lose the semi-final.” Malaysia will rely on strikers Misron and Hafifihafiz Hanafi as they attempt to make their first Asian Games final after going unbeaten in the league with three wins and a draw.
The competition assumes significance since the winner of Thursday’s gold medal clash will get a direct entry into the 2010 London Olymics.

Kumar holds key to final door

By Ajitpal Singh

IT could turn out to be a battle between goalkeeper S.Kumar and drag flicker Sandeep Singh when Malaysia face India in an explosive semi-final match at the Aoti Hockey Stadium today.
Kumar, who has played exceptionally well so far, will need to stop on-form Sandeep Singh from scoring if India are awarded penalty corners.
Sandeep, known for his powerful drag flicks, is the most feared player in the Asian Games. The defender has scored 10 times, all from penalty corners, so far.
“It is going to be a touch-and-go match. Sandeep has been doing great so far but I am prepared to stop him from scoring,” said Kumar at the Aoti Hockey Stadium yesterday.
Malaysia, who hoped for redemption in the Asian Games after the miserably performance in Delhi, defied the odds by drawing 2-2 with defending champions South Korea and edging China 4-2 to book their semi-final spot.
Strikers Azlan Misron, Hafifihafiz Hafifi and penalty corner specialist Amin Rahim have been exceptional for Malaysia, scoring 13 goals between them.
However, if Malaysia want to make their first ever Asian Games final, they need to learn from their defeat to India at the Commonwealth Games. In Delhi, Malaysia dominated and led twice against India but eventually lost 3-2.
For the record, India tend to be fragile against their rivals away from home.
In this year’s Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia humiliated India 5-2, their biggest victory over their South Asian rivals in two decades.
National coach Stephen van Huizen said his team must tighten its defense and avoid giving away penalty corners against India.
“Our defensive line-up tends to lose concentration. We cannot afford it against India as they are the favourites. We must play tight because India have very good forwards and penalty corner set pieces,” he added.
Pakistan face Korea in the other semi-finals today.