PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Hockey League's defending overall champions Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) have given up hope of winning the league title.
They have suffered two defeats in four matches – going down to Sapura (1-2) two weeks ago and losing to Maybank (2-4) on Sunday.
BSN have six points from their victories over minnows Ipoh City Hall (5-0) and Royal Malay Regiment (3-1)and they are in fifth place in the 12-team league. Maybank are the leaders with the maximum 18 points from six wins.
BSN are not as formidable as they were last season when they had two Pakistani internationals, defender and penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas and forward Kashif Jawid, in their ranks.
They have lost a number of experienced players, among them internationals Roslan Jamaluddin, Mohd Amin Rahim, Jiwa Mohan and P. Prabahkaran. The presence of Pakistan junior international Syed Imran Ali has not helped much.
Coach. C. Paramalingam said: “Our challenge for league title is over. We have to just concentrate on getting into the quarter-finals and keeping our defence of the overall title alive.”
He said that the team made several careless mistakes and it cost the match against Maybank.
“The defence was a mess against Maybank. We did not play up to expectations. I have to talk to the players and I have to find solutions quickly to improve on our game,” said Paramalingam.
While BSN are feeling down, Maybank are in high spirits after becoming the first team to make the quarter-finals with a perfect record at the halfway stage.
Coach Wallace Tan said that the win over BSN put them in good stead for the tough matches against Sapura, Tenaga Nasional and Ernst and Young.
“My players are improving from game to game and I hope they will keep it up throughout the season,” he said. “I am also happy with the performance of the juniors, including Ismail (Abu), Mohd Riduan (Mohd Nasir) and Engku Abdul (Malek Engku Mohd). They are combining well in the team.”
Maybank will face stiff tests this week. On Friday, they will be up against Sapura, who are spearheaded by Korean national skipper Kang Keon-wook. The next day, they face Ernst and Young.
“The real tests continue for us this week. I hope my players will rise to occasion and do well in the two matches,” said Wallace.
Sapura are in second spot with 16 points and they have scored a whopping 41 goals and conceded only six. Ernst and Young are another point behind in third spot.
Ernst and Young have a lethal penalty corner taker in Indian defender Len Aiyappa, the leading scorer in the league. He has entted 21 of the 36 goals scored by his team in six matches.
The MHL will take a six-week break from June 23 for national players to attend a training camp in preparation for the Champions Challenge to be held in South Africa from July 19-27.