Monday, December 20, 2010

Shakeel and Butt show

By Ajitpal Singh

SHAKEEL Abbasi and Rehan Butt, both Pakistan internationals, emerged as the stars in the opening weekend of the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL), despite having only limited practice with their teams.

Shakeel, who arrived a day before Yayasan Negri Sembilan's (YNS) opening match on Saturday, turned on a mesmerising display to help his team beat Maybank 4-1 while Rehan, who was named in the World XI recently, was the strength behind Sapura's impressive 7-2 victory over ATM-Airod.
The 28-year-old Shakeel, also the captain of YNS, said he could easily adapt with his team's style of play as there were many Pakistan and India players in the side.
"I hardly trained with the team as I only arrived a day before the match. I had a shaky start in the beginning but everything went well for me once I got into the groove," said Shakeel, who scored 125 goals in 320 appearances for Pakistan, yesterday.
"I had several offers from Europe this year but could not go as I was involved in the domestic league with SSGC. I chose to play in Kuala Lumpur as the Pakistan league has ended."
Shakeel said the exposure in the MHL will help him keep fit in-preparation for next year's Champions League and the 2012 London Olympics.
"We do not play much hockey in Pakistan during off-season. My short stint here will keep me focused and fit for the challenges ahead especially for international tournaments," said Shakeel, adding that he hopes to help YNS win the league and overall titles this season.
Rehan almost single-handedly tore open ATM's leaky defence to help his Sapura teammates poach goals on Saturday.
Sapura coach I. Vikneswaran said Rehan, together with the other foreign signings, hardly trained together prior to Saturday's match.
"Rehan had one full training session but some did not even have one. For instance, national player Jiwa Mohan only arrived a few hours before the match. And so winning the match is a good booster for the team," said Vikneswaran.
In another match on Saturday, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (Unikl) were made to slog before edging UiTM 3-2, courtesy of a hat-trick by Richard Patherick, a New Zealand international.
Coach Darren Smith said his boys made mistakes and did not follow the game plan.
"Some players tend to dribble instead of making simple passes. But these things will need time to correct and while I am glad with the win, I cannot say the same for the performance," said Smith.
The MHL restarts on Dec 31.

YNS on super start

By Ajitpal Singh

YAYASAN Negri Sembilan (YNS) made a winning start upon their return to the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) by defeating Maybank 4-1 in a Premier Division match at the Tun Razak Stadium yesterday.

YNS, who last played in the MHL in 1995 with 11 foreign players, including six from Pakistan, were in impeccable form despite lack of training among team members prior to the match.

Most of their foreign signings only reported to the club on Friday but it did not stop YNS from notching an impressive win over the Maybank side.
Muhammad Imran, a forward from Pakistan, scored a brace for YNS in the 16th and 44th minutes while Prabjot Singh (49th) and Muhd Waqas Sharif (68th) added the other goals.
Maybank replied through Mohamad Syafiq Mohamed Zain in the 30th minute.
Shakeel Abbasi, who arrived in KL on Friday, was YNS' best player with his creative display and the Pakistan international was duly rewarded with the Man-of-the-Match award in his very first match in the league.
"Although, we lacked practice, we knew we could win as we have a stable side. I played in midfield despite being a forward but I was comfortable with my new role with the club," said Shakeel, who helped Pakistan win the Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou at the Tun Razak Stadium yesterday.
"I believe my team have a good mix of experienced players to make an impact in this league. Our target is to finish in the top three bracket. I believe we can win it here."
In an earlier match, former champions Sapura overcame a slow start in the first half to demolish ATM-Airod 7-2 in their opening match.
Jiwa Mohan scored a brace for Sapura in the ninth and 49th minutes. Other goals were from former national captain S. Kuhan (42nd), Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin (53rd), Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin (60th), Muhd Noor Khairul Adnan (67th) and Mohd Rodzhanizam Mat Radzi (68th).
ATM replied through Mohd Shahrul Amran (35th) and Mohd Shafiq Yaacob (54th).
Sapura coach I. Vikneswaran said victory for his team in the first match is a good sign for their campaign.
"Historically, Sapura are slow-starters. We rarely win our first match of the season in previous editions. And so earning three points today (yesterday) is a bonus," said Vikneswaran.

TNB retain TNB Cup

By Ajitpal Singh

TENAGA Nasional Berhad (TNB) retained their Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) Charity Shield title by defeating Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) 2-0 at the Tun Razak Stadium in
Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

It was a scrappy match as the heavy downpour since late afternoon made it difficult for both teams to produce a high quality performance on the soggy pitch.
TNB coach Nor Saiful Zaini hopes the victory would spur his players to regain the MHL title.
"It was a difficult match due to the rain but we won because my players kept their focus on their game," said Nor Saiful at the Tun Razak Stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
"Although, we won today (yesterday), I am not too happy with my players' performance. But I am confident they will do better after a few matches."
TNB earned their first penalty corner of the match after 15 minutes but Amin Rahim's powerful trademark drag flick was brilliantly padded away by KLHC goalkeeper Kairulnizam Ibrahim.
Five minutes later, KLHC midfielder Shahrun Nabil Abdullah managed to dribble past several TNB defenders inside the semi-circle but his attempt was deflected off the stick of Amin.
KLHC, the last year's MHL champions, earned a penalty corner in the 30th minute but the attempt from Razie Abd Rahim sailed wide.
A foul in the semi-circle earned TNB their second penalty corner and Amin, this time, made no mistake by sounding the board with a low flick two minutes before halftime.
In the opening minutes of the second half, KLHC came charging into their opponents' half but were let down by poor passing.
In the 40th minute, KLHC forced a penalty corner but Razie again failed to convert by flicking the ball wide.
TNB forwards, led by Faizal Saari, were creating a lot of space for themselves in their opponents' half but couldn't find the opening.
However, they earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 49th minute but Amin failed to make it count.
KLHC pressed hard and had a couple of good chances to level proceedings but forwards Ismail Abu and Azlan Misron failed to capitalise on them..
In the 64th minute, KLHC's attempt from a penalty corner through Baljit Singh failed to beat goalkeeper S. Kumar.
TNB increased their lead through Faiz Helmi Jali, who latched onto a pass from Faizal, before sounding board past goalkeeper Khairulnizam in the 69th minute.