KUALA LUMPUR: With five league title and four overall titles in the bag, Tenaga Nasional are one of the most successful teams in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
But their 15th season could end up in failure when they face Ernst and Young in the final for the overall title at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
Tenaga, who have always been the forerunners in the MHL since it began in 1987, were robbed of one of the two titles they won last year when Sapura won the league this year.
Now, Ernst and Young are threatening to take away the overall title.
Everything points to a titanic struggle with Tenaga looking for a perfect 10 titles and Ernst and Young looking for their first ever MHL crown.
Both teams came through the semi-finals fighting after going behind in the first leg.
Tenaga defeated Sapura while Ernst and Young sent BSN out of the final.
Both teams insist that the other side are the favourites for the title and claim they are the underdogs.
But the mantle of favourites really does not matter when it comes to the final.
Both the finalists have a well-balanced team with a lot of experienced and young players in their ranks.
So, it will actually boil down to the tactics of the day.
Tenaga coach K. Rajan admitted that the final would be different from the semi-finals or quarter-finals as it will be decided over one match.
“You have to find your rhythm early and make sure the players are ready to go from the start.
“Slow starters will pay a heavy price as, in a final, the slightest mistake can be fatal.
“We cannot afford to get off to a slow start.
“I think the players realise that and will be in the right frame of mind to play in the final,” he said yesterday as the team did a light workout at their clubhouse in Jalan Pantai.
Teamwork has been the hallmark of the Tenaga game. But they also have players with good individual skills to complement each other.
Youngster S. Selvaraju is a key player but a knee injury has restricted him to being only a substitute.
Players like Tajol Rosli, Madzli Ikmar, Norazlan Rahim, Fairuz Ramli, Kelvinder Singh, Baljit Singh Charun, S. Bubalan are the new stars in the team.
But the oldies like Nor Saiful Zaini, M. Kalisweran, Lawrence Steven, S. Kumar and Mohamed Syayrim Uda Karim are still a vital cog in their plans.
They provide the much needed experience and guidance in the team.
But Ernst and Young will not just bend over for them in the final.
They, too, have a blend of experience and youth in their team and, more than anything, they have several players with good individual flair.
Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Azli Misron, Azlan Misron, Baljit Singh Sarjab, Regan Krishanan, Ahmad Anuar Shamm Mohamed Amerrullah and Zulkifli Rejab will represent the youth in the team.
The experienced stars are Indian imports Dhanraj Pillay, Lazarus Barla and national stars Roslan Jamaluddin, Chua Boon Huat, K. Logan Raj, Mohamed Amin Rahim, and former international Lee Sien Lam and Tarvinder Singh.
Coach S. Arulselvaraj will have to make sure he comes out with the right strategy as they have a tendency to play the wrong formation.
Dhanraj is a good centre forward and very effective in the D.
As such, it would be pointless for Ernst and Young to give him a midfield role as they did in the previous matches.
He will be more effective with Tengku Ahmad and Boon Huat in the forward line and the midfield trio of Logan Raj, Azlan and Azli Misron will be a good back up in the attack.
Still, both side seem to have effective players in every department and it will all be down to the coaches to play the right man aat the right time.
It promises to be close and could well end in a draw. If the teams are deadlocked after extra-time, penalty strokes will decide the issue.
But the prize money of the champions and runners-up will be divided equally between the two teams.
Still, on paper, it looks as if Ernst and Young have the upper hand this time around but Tenaga have shown that they will fight to the final whistle.
And a thriller is on the cards.