Despite have five national players and a host of ex-internationals, Sapura struggled to register a 4-0 win over a resilient Armed Forces Airod at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

While Muhammad Izzat Mohd Rahim is still out injured, as a result of a hamstring injury suffered last month in the Test series against Japan, Sapura still had the likes of Mohammad Marhan Mohd Jalil, Mohd Fitri Abu Bakar, Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin and Azreen Rizal Nasir to spearhead their challenge in the league.

Only Azreen Rizal's hattrick saved Sapura the blushes as ATM Airod really could have made things different had they been sharper in the first half where they created at least five goal scoring opportunities.

And they also boast of the likes of S. Kuhan, Jiwa Mohan, Redzuan Ponirin, Robertt Alcantra and Faizal Daud, all of whom represented the country at one time or another.

"While I am happy with the win and the four goals, we were playing well in patches and that is an area we need to work on. We had our issues with players as some had work commitments and in reality this was the first time they played together as a team," said Sapura coach I. Vikneswaran.

"We will build on this and getting a win under our belt is good as we face Maybenk in our next match. They are a reinforced side and it will not be easy.

"One are we need to work on is our penalty corners and hopefully we will do better in our next match."

But non of the current nor ex-internationals really stamped their mark in the match against an inexperienced Armed Forces side who made up for their lack of skill with hard running and intelligent use of the space.

Sapura took the lead in the 8th minute through national player Azreen Rizal Nasir. But they rarely attacked as their midfield showed a lack of cohesion to trouble the Army side.

And had it not been for the quick reflexes of keeper Khairulnizam Ibrahim, Sapura could well have been punished for their lack of concentration in defence.

But the failure of the Army boys to capitalise on the chances created gave Sapura added confidence and they were duly rewarded when Azreen struck the second goal in the 29th minute.

Despite being awarded five penalty corners, all coming in the second half, Sapura failed to get a decent attempt to trouble the Army custodian Mohd Khairul Affendy Kamarulzaman.

And Azreen was on target again four minutes from time to make it 3-0 and in the process become the first player to register a hattrick for the MHL this season.

Joel Samuel van Huizen struck in the final minute to put some respectability in the scoreline for Sapura but overall it was a poor performance by their standards.



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