Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kelantan defy the odds...

Kelantan players celebrate after scoring in sudden-death to beat Politeknik in the Division Two Semi-finals.

KELANTAN  does not even have a playable artificial pitch, but they still made it to the Division Two final of the NSC-Milo-MHC Junior Hockey League on sheer grit and determination.
   Unbeaten after nine matches, coach Hamzi Shaari’s charges will also play in the two-leg Milo Cup quarter-finals starting on Feb 22.
   And their other reward is promotion to play with the Big Boys in Division One next season.
   “Our only artificial pitch is in bad shape as the turf has fallen apart in many areas and is actually dangerous to train on, but we have no choice but to train there anyway.
   “We also had to share it with the soccer team, but it was worth the hassle, as my players showed true grit to reach the final,” said Hamzi, who teachers at Sekolah Menengah Tanah Merah.
    However, a moment of madness saw Kelantan’s key player Ashraf Noor being flashed the red card, and now his team is set to suffer the consequences in the final today, as well as the first leg of the quarter-finals.
    “Ashraf, a midfielder, was instrumental in attack as well as defence and without him, we will be the underdogs against KLSS (Kuala Lumpur Sports School) as well as the quarterfinals of the Milo Cup.
     In the Milo Cup, the four seeded teams are Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School, Petaling Jaya City Council and UniKL, Andersons.
    The other four; Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School Juniors, Malacca High School, KLSS and Kelantan; will draw lots on Monday to determine their opponents in quarter-finals.
    Kelantan, who last won the Division two title in 2008, will have to overcome a strong KLSS hurdle, as the City side not only has a battery of good coaches, but also many world class artificial pitches around them to train.
     “This is the first time that we are playing in the final after making our debut three  years ago, so we will be out to claimn our first JHL silverware,” warned KLSS team manager Zainal Ariffin Abdullah.
   His confidence stems from the fact that while Kelantan have lost their play-maker to a red card, KLSS can bank on their top scorer Noor Faiz Rosli, who has scored 11 goals in nine matches.
    “Kelantan have proven that they are fighters as they came back from two goals down to beat Politeknik 4-3 in the sudden death so we will have to be extra careful, but I believe my players can overcome the odds,” said Zainal.
    TODAY: Division Two Final: Kelantan v KLSS (7pm); Third-Fourth: Anderson Juniors v Politeknik PKT (5pm).
   Both matches at Pitch II, National Hockey Stadium Bukit Jalil.