KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions Telekom Pahang and Division One winners Malaysia Sports School are on course for a repeat of last year’s final clash after moving into the semi-finals with ease in the MHF-Milo-NSC-Admiral Junior Hockey League.
Telekom and Malaysia Sports School are joined in the last four by Tenaga Nasional and Anderson-XYBase.
All four teams took comfortable leads in the first-leg quarter-final matches and rode through the return legs to book their semi-final berths.
Telekom had expected a tough time against MSS Terengganu but their fears proved unfounded as they won both the legs to make the cut.
The other three teams – Malaysia Sports School, Anderson and Tenaga Nasional – drew their return-leg matches, but had done enough work in the first leg to book their tickets to the last four.
The Telekom-Tenaga semi-final match is expected to be a fiery affair.
Both were touted at the beginning of the season as favourites for the league title. Unfortunately, both failed to win the Division One title, which went to the Malaysia Sports School. Now, Telekom and Tenaga are determined to reach the final for a shot at the overall crown.
Telekom coach Izwan Suhardy conceded yesterday that Tenaga would be a handful for his team.
“Tenaga have an experience set of players with at least seven playing in the national Under-19 team. So, we must have proper game plans for the two legs.
“The only advantage is that we play the first leg away. We can bank on our home crowd for support in the return leg,'' said Izwan.
Tenaga, however, are not overly concerned that the first leg is a home tie.
Said Tenaga coach K. Rajan: “We will deploy the same tactics we used in beating Malacca Municipal Council in the last eight (Tenaga won 3-0 in the first leg at home and drew 2-2 in the return leg).
“We will go all out to secure a good lead in our home match and then defend it in the return leg.
“We played Telekom in the preliminary round and the match ended in a draw. They are a strong team with skilful players. We will not under-estimate them.”
The other semi-final tie is a battle of two school teams.
Malaysia Sports School have players from the Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar Sports Schools. They are supposed to have the cream of the nation’s best youth players.
On paper, Malaysia Sports School have the upper hand but Anderson beg to differ.
Their match in the preliminary round ended in a 1-1 draw. The match was disrupted by heavy rain and both sides failed to give their best.
Malaysia Sports School coach Tai Beng Hai cautioned his players against under-estimating Anderson.
“We had it easy in the last eight but this time we have a tough fight on our hands. Anderson have players with experience and slick teamwork,” said Beng Hai.
Anderson will go into the match as the winners of the Champions Schools tournament just four months ago.
Now, they are out to beat Malaysia Sports School for the tag as the best hockey school team in the nation.