KUALA LUMPUR: League leaders Sapura will not just have to do without penalty corner specialist S. Kuhan in the top-of-the-table Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) match clash against Ernst & Young today, they will also have to contend with Indian international Dhanraj Pillay.
Dhanraj, who has more than 400 international caps to his credit, did not play in the first round of the MHL as he was with the Indian team for the Athens Olympics.
Without Dhanraj, Ernst & Young lost 2-4 in the first round match to Sapura.
Tonight, though, the Indian will be a big thorn in the side for the leaders at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium.
Sapura coach Tai Beng Hai admitted that they would have to watch out for Dhanraj, the most capped player in the world.
“He has good dribbling skills and can penetrate any defence. We have to put a man on him as he will create all the moves.
“Ernst and Young will start out as the favourites as they have the full squad while we will likely be without Kuhan to marshall the defence and score from penalty corners,'' said Beng Hai.
Kuhan, who has 22 goals to his credit, is down with an ankle injury and did not play the match against Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) on Sunday.
Beng Hai said that in the absence of Kuhan, former international Maninderjit Singh would be in charge of the defence.
“We will be relying on Maninderjit and Jiwa Mohan to deliver the goals from penalty corners.
“Ernst & Young will be going all out to get the better of us to stay in contention for the league title and also to seek revenge,'' said Beng Hai.
Sapura lead the 10-team league with 34 points from 13 matches while Ernst & Young are trailing by two points after the same number of matches.
Ernst & Young coach A. Arulselvaraj said the match against Sapura would be a do-or-die situation for them.
“If we win, we are back in hunt for the league title. But if we lose, our hopes of winning the title look doubtful.
“It's not going to be easy beating them although they will not have Kuhan.
“They were without Kuhan in the match against BSN on Sunday and they still won 3-2,” said Arulselvaraj.
He added that they would play a tight marking game as Sapura have forwards who are skilful and fast on the counter-attack.
“The only plus point we have is that Dhanraj will lead the forward-line. I hope that with his presence, we will create more chances and score goals,'' said Arulselvaraj.
Ernst & Young will also be banking on their top scorer Mohd Amin Rahim to deliver goals in the crucial match.
The defender has scored 16 goals – 15 from penalty corners flicks and one from a penalty stroke.