KUALA LUMPUR: The stage is all set for a battle royal in Kuala Terengganu on Friday for the Premier Division title of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
Defending champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) hold the advantage as they lead the six-team standings with the maximum 24 points after eight matches. They have a three-point lead over second-placed Terengganu.
A win or a draw for KLHC will see them lift their ninth straight league title.
But a Terengganu win will send the title challenge down to the wire on Sunday where the final preliminary round matches will be held.
On Sunday, Terengganu will play Sapura at home while KLHC face lowly Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
If the title showdown goes to Sunday, then the matches on that day will be crucial for both KLHC and Terengganu with goal difference likely to decide the outcome.
For now, KLHC have a goal difference of plus 21 while Terengganu have a plus 22.
KLHC are determined to get the job done in Kuala Terengganu instead of leaving it to the last match.
Said KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj: “ We know what needs to be done. It would be folly to try and play for a draw in Kuala Terengganu. We want to win it on Friday and have an easier time on Sunday.”
In the first-round match, KLHC edged Terengganu 2-1.
But the star-studded Terengganu side are not going to roll over as they are also eager to win their first-ever league title. This is their second year in the MHL and they have assembled a strong side with the core of the national team and five South Korean imports.
Terenganu coach Sarjit Singh believes his players are beginning to gel nicely for the tail-end of the league.
“The match against KLHC is the match that counts for now. We have to win and nothing else matters if we are to win the title. The team is getting better and more confident,” he said.
In Faizal Saari, Terengganu have a sure match-winner. Besides Faizal, the other players capable of turning the match in Terengganu’s favour are Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Mohamed Firhan Azhaari and South Korean penalty corner specialist Jang Jong-hyun.
KLHC, on the other hand, thrive on teamwork and their ability to convert their chances.
At the moment, the title challenge is too close to call. But KLHC have been there before and know how to get the job done. They have a total of 13 titles (eight leagues and five overalls) to back their claim.
A fiery game is on the cards and one that fans are likely to enjoy.