KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions Telekom Pahang have the advantage but Tenaga Nasional are ready to battle to the end when the two teams meet in the second-leg semi-finals of the MHF-Milo-NSC-Admiral Junior Hockey League at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium today.
Both teams were tied 0-0 in the first leg and, in their eagerness to finish the tie, both teams left for Kuantan immediately after the first-leg match.
Yesterday evening, both teams shared the pitch in training. But they did not share similar opinions about the home ground advantage.
Telekom Pahang coach Izwan Suhardy said they could win as they had good support and were in familiar surroundings.
“Yes, the draw has fired the players up and I see it as the best chance we can get at beating them. Both our previous matches have ended in draws.” The league match had ended 1-1.
Izwan said his midfield trio of Zulkifli Rejab, Zarit Zainal and Izwan Mohd Hassan would be the key to victory.
“They have to seize control and also ensure that the forwards have better support up front. We need numbers in front and these three players can give us that,'' he added.
Tenaga coach K. Rajan said Telekom would not have much of an advantage as the pitch at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium was worn out and would affect both teams.
“So, I cannot agree that they will have a great advantage. The pitch conditions are bad and it will affect them too. So, I feel we can take our chances and win the match. The game is still very much open,” he said.
Rajan said the main thing was for his players to work as a unit.
“We have good players and seven of them are from the national Under-19 team. But they get over individualistic at times,” he added.
The seven players from the national Under-19 side are brothers S. Selvaraju, Bubalan, Kelvinder Singh, Abas Nekmat, Mohamed Fairus Hamsani, Eszreen Abdul Aziz and Azli Misron.
Earlier, Tenaga had been afraid that Selvaraju and Bubalan couldn’t make it to the game as they had to attend to family matters in Taiping. But arrangements have been made for them to fly into Kuantan from Penang via Kuala Lumpur. They are expected to arrive 40 minutes before the game starts.
“Without these two, we will be badly affected. They are among the more skilful players and are also among our top goal getters,'' said Rajan.
After the first leg, Rajan had said that his team had come undone because of Telekom's long passes, which bypassed the Tenaga midfield.
Rajan will certainly be expecting more of the same today but Izwan is smart enough to know what Tenaga will plan.
“We are not underestimating them. We feel great but tomorrow (today) is another story. I just want the players to cut down on their mistakes and make their shots count.”
Telekom won the title last year on their debut season. And they want to keep the title. Tenaga just missed out on goal difference for the Division One title this year. Both teams are highly motivated – and, barring the poor pitch, some good hockey is at hand.