KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Sports School face one of their biggest challenges in this year's MHF-Milo-NSC-Admiral Junior Hockey League when they take on defending overall champions Telekom Pahang tomorrow in a match that could well decide the Division One title.
From the start, it has been clear that Telekom Pahang, Tenaga Nasional and the Sports School would be the main contenders for the Division One title.
The Malaysia Sports School started the competition with a 2-1 win over Tenaga. Now if they can overcome the Telekom side, the title would be as good as theirs.
Telekom now lead the standing after two 4-0 wins over Srii Aroma-PISC and MPK-Olak.
Sports School, however, are not going to have it easy. Telekom Pahang have no intention of losing the match.
Telekom coach Izwan Suhardy said yesterday that they would be on their guard against the Sports School whom they beat in the final last year for the overall title.
“The game holds a lot of motivation for the Sports School as a win will put them in command for the title race.
“If they beat us, then they will take the lead and all other teams will have to chase them for the title. So we have to ensure that they do not win.
“They have already beaten Tenaga Nasional and, as such, this match is a big event for them.
'It is also a big match for us and there is a lot of pressure on my players as well,'' he added.
The Telekom Pahang team feel they need to play a hit-and-run game against Sports School, as this will allow them to keep a tight control of the defence.
Izwan said they couldn’t hope to play an open game as this could work against them.
“We will play a cautious game and use counter attacks to get the goals. They are a skilful side and we cannot afford be open with them. I expect it to be a close affair and the team that can make use of the chance will come away winners,'' he added.
Telekom Pahang have an injury worry about their main forward Mohamed Izwan Hassan but the coach is optimistic he can recover in time.
“It is still early to tell if he can play but we are hoping that he will be ready to play. We need all our best players as we only have 16 players to bank on in the league,'' he said.
The Telekom side will also have to keep a close watch on Sports School striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin who has scored three goals in two matches.
Izwan agreed that Tengku Ahmad was the danger man and will need to be given close attention in the match.
“But I do not think that we need to play man-to-man marking. Zonal marking and a lot of team effort should do the trick,” added Izwan.
Speed, he added, would be one of the weapons they would need to use against the Sports School.
“Yes, we have players like Mohamed Redza Maadon and Mohamed Al-Fadhir who are very speedy in their play. So we need to use this asset and make sure that we keep them pinned in their own half,'' he said.
Izwan said the game plan that the coaches come out with would prove crucial.