KUALA LUMPUR: Defending overall champions Telekom Pahang snatched a crucial 1-0 win over Malaysia Sports School in the MHF-Milo-NSC-Admiral Junior Hockey League to keep the Division One title race wide open.
A 39th minute penalty corner flick taken by Zulkifli Rejab was enough to decide the tie, that was delayed for 30 minutes by a heavy downpour in the first half.
The match lived up to expectations as a top-of-the-table clash. Had the Sports School won, they would have been in the driving seat for the title as they had earlier beaten the other title contenders Tenaga Nasional 2-1.
With Telekom Pahang and Tenaga yet to meet each other, it is still anyone's title.
Telekom now lead with three wins while Malaysia Sports School move to fourth spot on six points, just behind Tenaga Nasional who have a better goal difference.
Petaling Jaya Municipal Council are second after their 4-1 win over MPK-Olak at the Pandamaran Hockey Stadium in Klang. It was their third win in four matches.
The Malaysia SS-Telekom match showed a lot of promise with both teams well matched.
The Sports School enjoyed their best hockey in the first half and came close to scoring on at least three occasions. They also earned nine penalty corners in the match.
But the man who denied them was their “old boy” goalkeeper Khairulnizam Ibrahim. The goalkeeper played an important role to ensure that Telekom Pahang stayed in the hunt with a third clean slate.
After the rain delayed first half, the Telekom side took command of the game in the second half. Four minutes into the half they won their first penalty corner and Zulkifli flicked the ball into the net after a clean stop. That proved to be a winner for them.
Malaysia SS coach Tai Beng Hai said they had had their chances but the heroic performance by Khairul had foiled them.
“I'm happy with the performance of the players and despite the defeat we are still very much in the title hunt. It is important that the players keep up with the game. We showed we are still very much a match for them. There are areas where we need to improve and at this stage I do not want any undue pressure on the players,'' he said.
MPPJ, the finalist in 2001, took the lead against MPK-Olak quickly, scoring in the second minute through a field attempt by Mohamed Azreen.
Two more strikes in the 12th and 35th minutes through Khairol Nizam and Zaril Mohamed Zafri respectively saw them taking a 3-0 first half lead.
MPK-Olak got back into the game when Mohamed Zamzuhairi scored in the 41st minute off a penalty corner but the fightback fizzled out soon after.
At the Seremban Two Hockey Stadium, Tenaga Nasional carved out a 2-0 win over Yayasan Negri Sembilan, thanks to a goal in each half by S. Bubalan and Fairus Hamsani got the win. Bubalan netted from a 13th minute penalty corner while Fairus slammed in a field goal in the 65th minute.
In the only Division Two match yesterday, Penang Free School won their second straight match with a 2-0 win over Synergy HC.