www.thestar.com.myKUALA LUMPUR: The next three matches will decide the winners of the Premier Division title in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL). From the start, two teams have dominated the standings and will play the last preliminary round match against each other on Oct 9.
Double champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) have an easier run-in while Sapura’s path is fraught with danger.
KLHC play Universiti Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday followed by Nur Insafi on Friday.
Given their current form, they should win both matches easily.
The star-studded KLHC have scored 29 goals in five matches and conceded only seven. They have the best record offensively.
Sapura, on the other hand, have the same number of points (15) with KLHC but have scored 21 goals in five matches and have conceded six goals.
At this stage, both are best teams in the MHL and there is no doubt that they will make their match on Sunday the decider.
But Sapura coach I. Vicknesweran has warned that their remaining other two matches are tricky and they will be better off taking a cautious approach.
“We always have to look at the first match and then plan accordingly. Tenaga are going to be a handful considering they have a lot of national stars in their rank. This is a must win match and one that could well decide the title.
“There are three matches left for us and KLHC and the team who win all three will be crowned champions. It is simple and there is no need to worry about goals,” he said.
Sapura have the players to make the title run work but their worry is complacency. The have the tendency to take their feet off the pedal at crucial moments. They have players like S. Kuhan and Jiwa Mohan providing the experience at the back and others who are capable of handling pressure.
But it is youngsters like Mohamed Marhan Jalil, Izwan Firdaus and Mohamed Fitri Abu Bakar who could turn out to be match winners. The return of Mohamed Izzat Rahim from injury is also a welcome addition to their attacking play. He was tried out in the last two matches and came away with satisfying results. He even scored a goal in the match against Nur Insafi.
Tenaga, on the other hand, lost ground on their title chances when they lost the first match 1-2 to KLHC and then drew 2-2 with Maybank.
They are unlikely to feature in the title run even if they beat Sapura. But that could change if KLHC lose one of their matches.
The other teams in the fray will be eyeing a mid-table finish.
Currently, UniKL and Nur Insafi are in fourth and fifth positions. Maybank and Yayasan NS are also eyeing these positions as this will allow the teams to avoid the big three in the knockout stage.
The top seven teams in the Premier Division and the Division One champions will qualify for the quarter-finals.
In Division One, the winner is likely to be a toss-up between Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) and Ipoh City Council.
SSTMI have 12 points while the Ipoh side are one point behind them.
Both teams meet on Wednesday and the winners are likely to take the title as they will have just one more game to play.