Fitness and stamina crucial in longer MHL season


KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura and Ernst and Young are the early pace setters as the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) got off with a glut of goals in last weekend's opening rounds of action. 

They are the only unbeaten sides after two matches. A total of 55 goals were scored in the nine matches so far. 

Both the coaches of Sapura and Ernst and Young felt that the real contenders for the title in the 10-team league played on a home-and-away basis would involved at least another three teams. 

Sapura coach Tai Beng Hai said that his team, who were the MHL runners-up last year, needed to tread with caution. 

“This is going to be a tougher league competition with teams having to play a total of 18 matches each over seven weeks,” he said. 

“We are happy that we have maximum points from the first two matches. Goals will count along with the points earned. 

“But we are not going to be too concerned about chalking up big scores at the moment. The first priority is to win matches.  

“I see at least five teams in the fight for the league title. BSN (Bank Simpanan Nasional), Tenaga (Nasional) and even Customs are contenders too. We also cannot rule out Maybank.” 

Ernst and Young coach A. Arulselvaraj also echoed the sentiments. 

“Consistency will be the key. With nine or 10 matches, you can race along and wrap up the title quickly. But this time there are 18 matches. The fitness level of the players will also be important due to the hectic schedule and I don't think there will be a team making a clear run for the title this year,” he said. 

Ernst and Young head the table on better goal difference than Sapura. They have scored 11 goals and conceded none. 

Of the 10 teams in the fray, only former champions Maybank failed to score.  

The Tigers played only one match because they had an inter-bank assignment and their match against MHF Project has been rescheduled to Aug 18. 

Last year's double champions Tenaga started on a losing note to Royal Malay Regiment (RMR) but bounced back to beat MHF Project 6-1. 

Tenaga coach Rajan said that they were not unduly worried over the defeat by RMR. 

“The defeat is a blessing in some way as it gave an early warning to the players not to take any team for granted,” said Rajan. 

The junior players in the various teams also showed good potential with a number of them hitting the goal trail. 

Among them were Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Zulkifli Rejab, Mohamed Fakrulrazdi, Mohamed Fikri Bassar, Fazreen Ekhsan, Ismail Abu and Mohamed Shahrun Nabil. 

Of the six foreigners in the fray, Hong Kong's Arif Ali stood out with his contribution for RMR in the win over Tenaga. He scored two goals but fever kept him out of the match against Sapura, which RMR lost 1-7. 

From this week, there will be mid-week matches on Wednesday and teams are down to play three matches each week. 

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