Universiti Kuala Lumpur’s (UniKL) chase for the 2019 Malaysian Hockey Premier League title is least of concern for coach Arul Selvaraj.
But it is the number of yellow cards picked up by the players that is a worrying factor.
The defending overall champions currently lead the table standings with 19 points – one clear of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and six points ahead of Terengganu Hockey Team followed by Maybank (12 points), Nur Insafi (4), Universiti Teknologi MARA (3) and TNB Thunderbolts (1).
With five more matches remaining in the second round of the league, Arul and UniKL will need to take on the challenges ahead without having to worry of suspensions to key players.
Defender Baljit Singh Charan Singh picked up two green and one yellow card which is equivalent to eight demerit points and has been suspended for one match. He will sit out of Friday’s encounter against Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) at the Tengku Abdullah Stadium in Bangi.
Four others – Faridzul Afiq Mohd, Australian Kieran Govers, Netherland’s Valentin Verga and Muhamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib collected one yellow card each.
A bigger challenge, however, awaits UniKL on Sunday (10 February) when they go head-to-head against closest title contender TNB at the Tun Razak Stadium and Arul will need all 20 players as he charts his plan.
“Another yellow card picked up by any of these four players will mean a one-match suspension. We cannot afford this in our remaining matches,” said Arul. “I always remind the players to keep their head down and play with calmness even at the slightest provocation.”
“Against THT, we lost in total 19 minutes of play with fewer players on the field at one time or another for receiving yellow and green cards and that’s not good for hockey. A lot of the other players had to work extra when this happens. It is a worrying thing for me also,” added Arul.
UniKL’s focus in the remaining matches is getting their act right in penalty corner conversions, tactical play and discipline. The league title is least of Arul’s concern.
“I am not looking at the title but the performance of the players in every game. The title will look at itself if we carry on winning every game. On a positive note it is good that we are running away from the second or third placed teams,” he said.
UniKL’s leading scorers are Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim with five goals whilst Robbert Kemperman and Martijn Peter Havenga, both from Netherlands, have scored four goals each.