www.thestar.com.myKUALA LUMPUR: Former champions Sapura will have a chance to play catch-up on double champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) when they play lowly UiTM at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
Sapura are second in the standings with 12 points but they have a game in hand. KLHC are the current leaders with 15 points from five matches.
Sapura coach I. Vickneswaran said yesterday that their priority was to collect the three points and they would not take UiTM for granted.
“At the rate we are going in our campaign, the last match against KLHC may well be the decider. But then again, goals may well play a big part in deciding the title winners.
“For me, the objective is to collect points and we should not look at the other teams just yet. Sure, KLHC have scored a lot of goals and are way in front of us in goal difference.
“We need not put pressure on the team to score a lot of goals. Let us just get a win. Furthermore, there is still the match with Tenaga Nasional to come,” he said.
Sapura know that they cannot afford to drop points against lower ranked teams. But they are aware of the pitfalls ahead.
“All it takes is for one momentary lapse during a game to drop points. All the teams are fighting hard to secure points and UiTM are no different. Our fate lies in our hands and we must decide how it goes.”
Sapura’s big win was the 7-1 thrashing of Nur Insafi.
“We will try to get the goals against UiTM but like I said, the priority will be to win at all costs. We’ve had a good start this year and the players are playing better than they did last year. We want to keep going and maintain the consistency that we have shown so far.”
KLHC do not have a game today and a win by Sapura will put them on the same number of points. KLHC have a plus 22 goal difference while Sapura have 12.
In the other matches, the teams will be looking to secure points to confirm their quarter-final berths.
KLHC and Sapura have secured theirs while Tenaga Nasional look set to follow them today.
UniKL, Nur Insafi, Maybank and Yayasan Negri Sembilan also look good to follow suit but their main concern is to try and finish in the fourth and fifth positions.
Finishing in that position will mean playing each other in the last eight. The teams believe that they stand a better chance of making the semis that way.
UniKL coach K. Embaraj said that it was certainly better to be placed either fourth or fifth.
“To be frank, there is no in point going up against the top sides in the last eight. So we need to win but playing Nur Insafi today may be tricky.
“We have taken the lead in our last three matches but we were unable to secure a win. We must work harder against the Penang team to secure full points,” he said.
UniKL are fourth, ahead of Nur Insafi by goal difference.
The other match of interest is the tie between Yayasan NS and Maybank. Both teams need the points and the winner will certainly have a better chance of making the last eight.
Only the top seven teams in the Premier Division qualify for the last-eight. The other team will be the Division One champions.