MBPJ's skipper Zul Pidaus Mizun (centre) is challenge by UniKL's Ahmad Ashraf Alias (left) during the Malaysian Junior Hockey League match in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. - Mohd Azhar Arif / The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) have virtually sealed the runners-up spot in Division One of the MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) after a narrow 2-1 win over Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) at the Education Ministry Turf in Jalan Pantai.
The former league and overall champions had to fight hard to secure victory, which gives them 12 points after five matches. MBPJ also have 12 points but have already completed their fixtures.
UniKL had eight penalty corners against MBPJ but only managed to score once – taking the lead in the ninth minute through Zulhazriq Hashim’s direct flick.
The PJ team hit back with the equaliser in the 33rd minute through Zulhazwan Hashim’s field attempt.
UniKL grabbed the winner in the 64th minute when Jamil Johari Ghazali scored his first goal in the competition.
UniKL will take on Anderson on Sunday in their last league fixture but even a defeat is unlikely to affect their position as they have a healthy goal difference to bank on.
UniKL were league champions in 2009 and overall winners in 2010. Last year, they finished third, with MBPJ finishing a spot above them.
UniKL team manager Mohamed Faiz Isa said that the team improved on their league position despite still not playing true to their capabilities.
“They are under-performing. They have the experience and the talent but that is not reflected on the pitch. Even today, they struggled a bit and only managed to win narrowly. They are not playing to instructions and that is an aspect that needs to be rectified before the knockout stage starts on Feb 28,” he said.
The fight for fourth in Division One will go down to the wire with the final match between UniKL and Anderson.
Malacca High School are currently occupying fourth place with five points. KLSS-KLHC had a golden chance to secure the spot on Saturday but were held to a 1-1 draw by SSTMI Juniors at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru.
KLSS also have five points but with an inferior goal difference to Malacca High.
Anderson, with two points, can pip both Malacca High and KLSS if they beat UniKL on Sunday.
But Anderson can forget about getting a free ride from UniKL although the varsity side have virtually sealed the runner-up spot.
“We will field our best players as we want them to maintain the momentum heading into the knockout stage. There is no need to field the reserves as we will have ample time to rest after this match and prepare for the quarter-finals,” said Faiz.
The six-team cast for the Division Two playoffs was completed on Saturday .
The qualifiers are Nur Insafi, Bakat MSSK (Group A); Pahang Juniors, Olak-PKT (Group B); Politeknik Johor and Bukit Jalil Sports School (Group C).