PETALING JAYA: The battle for the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) Division One title is still wide open as the competition enters its half-way mark.
At least six teams are still in the running for the league title.
Malaysia Sports School and Anderson-XYBase of Ipoh lead the pack with 12 points each from five matches. And only three points separate Tenaga Nasional, Pahang Telekom, Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) and Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak) from the top two teams.
But MPPJ have played six matches two more than the other three teams.
Defending overall champions Pahang Telekom suffered a setback on Saturday, losing 1-2 to Terengganu Schools Sports Council.
The Terengganu side are in seventh spot in the league with seven points from four matches.
For Pahang Telekom, it was their first defeat in four matches and it opened up the race for the title.
The Pahang team have only 16 players and they will face their toughest challenge this weekend against Tenaga, who have a number of big names in their squad.
Pahang Telekom team manager Azrul Syahril Mohd Aras said that the defeat by Terengganu SSC was a big blow to the team.
We were the favourites to beat them but suffered a shock defeat. Now we cannot afford to drop any more points in the remaining five matches if we hope to win the title.
The match against Tenaga on Sunday in Kuantan will be a do-or-die mission for us, he said.
Before the match against Tenaga, Pahang Telekom will play against Johor Sports Council in Kuantan on Saturday. Two-time champions Tenaga will take on Terengganu SSC on Friday at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium.
Tenaga coach K. Rajan said that this weekend would be a crucial week for them.
We have two tough matches and need to win both of them to stay in hunt for the title. Terengganu SSC have proved that they are no pushovers and will definitely want to get the better of us as well.
Tenaga will not have the services of forward S. Selvaraju and defender Syafiq Amir Kamarudin, both of whom sustained groin injuries in the match against MPPJ last Saturday, for the two matches this week.
Pahang Telekom also want to beat us to stay in the hunt for the title and it will be a tough weekend for us, said Rajan.
Meanwhile, the fight for the Division Two title will be between two teams Malacca Municipal Council and Sports School Juniors.
Both teams have chalked up the maximum 18 points from six matches. But Malacca MC top the table on better goal difference.
Malacca MC have scored a total of 44 goals and conceded only two while Sports School Juniors had scored 33 and let in five.
Both teams have five matches to play but the title and the title is expected to be decided when they meet each other on April 6.
Sports School Juniors' match against Mail Malay at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil has been brought forward to Thursday.
Sports School Juniors, who form the national Under-16 side, will be participating in the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) Under-16 international tournament in Dhaka from March 8-12.
After this weekends matches, the MJHL will take a one-month break for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, which will be played in Ipoh from March 22-31. The league resumes on April 4.