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Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 4:23:00 PM
Thursday September 12, 2013 MYT 4:24:44 PM
by s. ramaguru
Negri Sembilan's Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil (centre) being challenged by a Johor player in the Razak Cup. Negri take on KL in the semi-finals. – Bernama Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: It will be a battle of former champions in the Division One semi-finals of the Razak Cup at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium Friday.
Kuala Lumpur, the 19-time champions, will start as favourites after completing the group stage unbeaten. They play four-time champions Negri Sembilan while Malacca, champions in 2005 and 2009, take on six-time champions Perak in the other semi-final. Both matches will be played at 5.30pm.
Defending champions Terengganu failed to make the last four.
Despite KL’s unbeaten run, they do not hold much of an advantage over Negri, who were whipped 5-0 by KL when they last qualified for the final in 2008. Negri were champions in 1965, 1967, 1975 and 1977.
The current KL side are weaker compared to their past title winning teams but they have been consistent thus far and that should give them the advantage against a Negri side anchored by several veterans.
Negri coach S. Chandran admitted that they will be the underdogs, especially since they will have to make do without suspended skipper and midfield general Mohd Marhan Jalil.
“That’s a real blow to us ... he is the livewire of the team. We have several seniors like Suhaimi Ibrahim and S. Kuhan to guide the team but Marhan kept the midfield moving. KL have a well-balanced side and also veteran players to bank on.
“It’ll be a tough match but we hope to come up with a game plan to beat them,” said Chandran.
KL’s key players are national stars Baljit Singh, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor, Ramadhan Rosli and Nor Hizzat Sumantri, who can be relied on to make the final and go for their 20th Razak Cup title.
The Perak-Malacca match is evenly balanced. Perak are banking on four key players – Azlan Misron, Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Hafifihafiz Hanafi and Riduan Nasir – to take them through.
Perak assistant team manager Azraai Zain said the players are still feeling their way around but “have been improving with each match”.
“We just need to put away the chances that come our way. We tend to become complacent but, overall, we have a team capable of playing good hockey,” said Azraai.
“Malacca are also keen to make the final. The title has eluded us for a long time. I see the two semi-finals as open affairs ... all four teams have a chance to go through. It will come down to who uses the right strategy on match day.”
Tags / Keywords:
hockey, Razak Cup, Kuala Lumpur, Negri Sembilan, S. Chandran, Perak, Azraai Zain
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