Malaysia's Hanfiah Dolah makes a leaping kick smash in their ISTAF SuperSeries Finals quarter-final match against Japan at the Titiwangsa Stadium on Friday. Malaysia won 2-0. - BERNAMA
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia checked into the semi-finals of the ISTAF SuperSeries Finals 2013/14 after chalking up a fairly straightforward 2-0 win over Japan.
Malaysia’s first choice regu of Izurin Refin (tekong), Muqlis Borhan (feeder) and Hanafiah Dolah (killer) were the early aggressors, racing to a 9-0 lead, before eventually winning the first set 15-1. Malaysia had to stave off the Japanese attack to take the second set 15-9 at the Titiwangsa Stadium on Friday.
“We needed to come out fighting in the first set as we didn’t want to allow Japan to get into their groove. We sought to pressure them early on and it worked,” said national coach Jamaluddin Hasan.
However, it won’t be so straightforward for Malaysia in Saturday’s semi-finals against hard-blocking Brunei, who beat a spirited Singapore 15-11, 15-6.
“Brunei are a fast-improving side. They’re becoming a force to be reckoned with and I think this team (Nr Alim Sunsoh, Hafizzudin Jamaluddin and Ismail Ang) are probably the best they’ve fielded in the SuperSeries this season. They’re no pushovers, so we have to bring our A-game,” said Jamaluddin.
“Their strength is in blocking. We’ve got to mix things up a little. We’ve had no problems with out striking, just consistency in the service department and blocking. We’ll still play our style of takraw but with a little twist, using different pattern of plays to outfox them.”
Captain Muqlis, who is making his first appearance in the SuperSeries this season, said they fear no one going into the final stages of the competition.
“Whoever we face, we’re always in for a good fight. We’re not thinking about the final just yet. Our task now is Brunei,” said Muqlis.
The other semi-final will see Malaysia’s arch-nemesis Thailand facing South Korea, who beat India in straight sets. The Thais overcame Indonesia 15-2, 15-10.
In the women’s draw, Malaysia will be hoping to make their first final appearance this season. Noor Fairuz Azizan (tekong), Nor Farhana Ismail (feeder) and Rahilah Harun (striker) will have their work cut out for them as they are set to face bogey-side Myanmar.
The indomitable Thailand, already three-time champions at the New Delhi, Bangkok and Kota Kinabalu legs, will take on Indonesia in the other semi-final.
All the semi-finals will adopt the best-of-five format.