KUALA LUMPUR: Former champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) have a fight on their hands when they take on Politeknik Johor in the MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysian Junior Hockey League(MJHL) quarter-finals, second leg at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Sunday.
UniKL could only manage a 3-2 win in the first leg, leaving the battle for a semi-final berth wide open. The other three teams – SSTMI-Thunderbolt, Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak)-PKT – are virtually through to the last four.
Thunderbolt were the biggest winners in the first leg on Friday, whipping MSP Pahang Juniors 8-0.
Both MBPJ and Olak-PKT were 4-1 winners over Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and Malacca High School respectively.
The good news for UniKL is that Politeknik Johor will not have skipper Lukman Nul Hakim for Sunday’s return leg. Lukman has to sit out the match due to a one-match suspension after picking up a green card in the first leg.
But Politeknik Johor, the Division Two champions, will throw caution to the wind and aim to go for an all-out attack.
“We have nothing to lose and playing in the quarter-finals is already a bonus for us,” said Politeknik Johor team manager Mohamed Rafi Solaiman.
“In the first leg, we had the lead but our players’ poor fitness let us down. But we have to admit that UniKL are a good team with good talented players. All we can do is to try our best and upset the odds,” he added.
UniKL team manager Mohamed Faiz Isa warned his team against taking Politeknik Johor for granted.
“We have not performed to our potential and that is why we have been struggling in our matches.
“We were lucky to get a win in the first leg but it is just not enough. There are still dangers ahead and one wrong move can hurt us. I am sure our players can rise to the occasion tomorrow. But we must ensure that they do not get to score an early goal as that will give them a big boost.
“If we can kill off the match early, then we should win the match,” said Mohamed Faiz.
For defending champions Thunderbolt, they are likely to field their reserves for Sunday’s match.
Said Thunderbolt team manager Adam Izamry Idrus: “Yes, we are quite safe and we will try out the fringe players to give them a run-out before the semi-finals. My biggest worry is injury to key players at this stage. We want to go for the double and as such we want to make sure we have a full squad to rely on in the later stage of the tournament.”