KUALA LUMPUR: Two former champions Maybank and Bank Simpanan Nasional are inching their way up the table to put in a challenge against the top two – Ernst and Young and Sapura – for the Malaysia Hockey League title.
The two teams believe that the race for the title is still open and could go down the wire.
Maybank coach Wallace Tan said yesterday that after the end of the first round matches today would an indication of how the title run will go.
“I believe that the top five teams are still in the fight and it is not confined to two teams. The results of matches in the last two weeks have shown that no team can be taken for granted. I feel that the title run is just starting,” said Wallace.
Ernst and Young hold a slender two-point lead at the top of the standings with 21 points. They are likely to end their first round matches with another three points when they play the MHF Project squad today.
Ernst and Young lost their first match on Friday when they went down 2-4 to Sapura which reduced their lead at the top from five points to two.
Maybank and BSN also closed the gap by winning their matches on Friday. Maybank defeated Customs 4-1 to keep their third place but the gap in points between them and the leaders are now just four. BSN is one point behind with 16 points.
“I think once the first round matches are over the real fight will start.
“We had a bad start when we lost to Ernst and Young in the first match. We were then involved in the inter-bank meet and that affected the players to a certain degree.
“But I think they have recovered and have been improving with each match. We need to keep up the momentum and work harder in the coming matches,” added Wallace.
Ernst and Young coach A. Arulselvaraj said that their defensive play in some of the matches had not been good and they would need to buck up for the coming second round matches.
“We lost to Sapura because we did not work hard at the back and our tackling was way off. We need to work on this and make sure we get it right in the second round. The two-point lead is not good enough as that could change with just one defeat.
“But if we can stay ahead of the pack and not drop points then the title will be ours.
“But it is not going to be easy. Sapura are breathing down our necks and now Maybank and BSN have joined in the fray.
“We just cannot afford to falter at this stage,” said Arulselvaraj.
Sapura also have an easy game today against the Dolphins.
And it looks like Ernst and Young and Sapura would keep their place at the top at the half way mark.
Maybank, however, have a tough match today. They play double champions Tenaga Nasional, who lost their third match on Friday to BSN who won 5-4.
Wallace admitted that Tenaga would be a tough team to beat.
“They need to win as well to stay in the hunt. We also have to win to keep the title in sight. It should be good match,” he said.
The other match that could see an upset is the BSN-RMR tie.
The soldiers have managed to string together a good showing thus far and have raked in 13 points.
A win for them will put them in the top four.