HONG KONG—Opponents about to take on Sri Lanka better watch out for Priywalanka Sadaruwan who scored a hat-trick leading his side to a comprehensive 7-2 demolition over Uzbekistan on Sunday (Nov 20) evening in their opening match of the 5th Men’s Asian Hockey Federation Cup at Wiley Road.
Sadaruwan, whose full time job sees him arresting criminals is joined by teammates, who are all in the military services, all hungry to do well on the international scene.
Sri Lanka coach Herath Bandara was all smiles as he saluted his players for their opening win but anticipates an uphill struggle, as the win is sure to have set off the alarm bells in their opponents’ camps.
“The difference in this team to previous sides is we have endurance as many of the players are always training in their respective jobs and when we get together it is easy for us to gel,’ said Bandara.
It helped too that his side has Sadaruwan, who plays in the center-forward role and literally runs all over the pitch seeking chinks in his opponent’s armor.
Uzbekistan’s coach could only shrug as he acknowledged his side’s downfall was to a superior side, whose game was a mix of pace and attacks on both flanks.
“We lost to a better team,” said Uzbek coach Oybek Patidinov, “but our aim is to gain international experience”. The Uzbek side is unaccustomed to playing on artificial surfaces as they have only one indoor venue. They only arrived the night before the match and were still becoming acclimatized, but still managed to score two goals – one by Mirzakarimov Okhonjon and a Sri Lankan own-goal.
But it is Sri Lanka that all eyes are glued to as they proved entertaining with their speedy runs and passing end-to-end creating headaches for their opponents.
The tournament began last Saturday Nov 19 with Chinese Taipei beating Macau 2-0 while host Hong Kong crashed to a 4-2 defeat to two-time champions Bangladesh.
Hong Kong coach Mark Kake was optimistic about his side’s development despite the lost and hoped to see improvement in the coming days.
The tournament continues until Sunday Nov 27 with teams from Bangladesh, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau in Pool A, and Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Uzbekistan in Pool B. The round robin matches finish on Thursday (Nov 24), Friday is a rest day, leading into a weekend of knock out games.
Eddie So is a seasoned sports journalist and photographer and has worked for a number of media companies in Hong Kong over a period of more than 20 years.