KUALA LUMPUR: Two Johor-based teams will be gunning to end the domination of Klang Valley sides in the final of the MHF-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League.
Newcomers MSJ-Batu Pahat, who finished as the Division Two runners-up, will play against defending champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) in the semi-finals while Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) will be up against Tenaga Nasional in the other semi-finals.
The first-leg matches will be played today and the return-leg matches will be held on Thursday.
BJSS have been finalists since 2002 and they emerged as champions in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
The last time a team from outside Klang Valley contested in a final was in 2002 and Pahang Telekom defeated BJSS 1-0 to lift the title.
BPSS coach Yahya Atan said that it would be a big boost for Johor if both their teams qualified for the final.
It will be the second semi-finals for us and we hope that it will end on a happy note. We were eliminated in the semi-finals last year by BJSS in a penalty shoot-out. We hope to get the better of Tenaga this time, he said.
But the records does not favour BPSS.
They have played against Tenaga twice since gaining promotion to Division One last year. They lost 1-2 last year and were beaten 0-2 this season.
We hope to be third time lucky. The match will be tough. They have a very settled side and will be fired up to make the final. We will be at home in the first-leg tomorrow and will have to take advantage of the situation, said Yahya.
BPSS advances to the semi-finals with a 5-1 win on aggregate over Anderson 5-1 while Tenaga beat MSS Kelantan 5-4 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Batu Pahat coach Shaiful Azli Abdul Rahman said that they would not be overawed by BJSS' reputation.
BJSS have a good system and their record speaks for itself. But having come this far, we feel confident about the match, he said.
The first match is crucial. We cannot afford to allow them to take a big lead.
It is important for us to try and score early and put pressure on them. We have the players to take on any Division One team.
Shaiful added that an all-Johor final was an interesting prospect to provide a new era for the competition.
BJSS and Tenaga are regulars at the semi-final stage and they know what to do. But they can be beaten and Batu Pahat and BPSS can make it happen, he said.
We hope to spring a surprise in the first-leg match in KL and get an advantage for the home match on Thursday.
The final is scheduled for Sunday.