The stage is set for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) to realise a nine-year wait in capturing the Malaysian Hockey Premier Division crown for the first time at the Tengku Abdullah Stadium in Bangi tomorrow.
Arul Selvaraj’s UniKL, who made their debut in 2011 and emerged TNB Cup champions last year, have been unbeaten in 10 matches. The only blemish in their campaign was the 2-2 draw against Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) but it’s the outcome of tomorrow’s encounter against Maybank that will determine their rightful claim to the title.
A victory over Maybank, who suffered a 7-2 demolition in the hands of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) last Sunday, is all that UniKL need to call for celebration. In the first round of the league, UniKL defeated Maybank 5-1 with a brace from Martijn Havenga whilre Muhammad Marhan Mohd Jalil, Robbert Kemperman and Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin added to Maybank misery.
With the threat from TNB and THT, two of the pre-tournament favourites, out of the way following their standings in the pool, the stage have been perfectly set out for UniKL players to appease the university’s management.
“We have come to a point where a win over Maybank is all that is needed to win the title although we still have one more game on the fixture against TNB Thunderbolt on Friday,” said UniKL coach Arul.
“Honestly, we are not thinking of the league title. It will come with a good result in the match. Our focus is the same as in every other match that is to play smart, improve on our tactical strategy and set pieces.”
“And I don’t think we should underestimate any team. We respect all the teams. Maybank have shown they are capable of playing great hockey on a good day and don’t forget they have won five matches too. So I do expect a strong challenge from Maybank on Wednesday,” he added.
The 2018 overall champions lead the pool with 28 points – one clear of TNB and nine points ahead of THT while fourth-placed Maybank have 15 points to show after 10 matches. TNB’s chances of riding to the top are almost nil and poised to finish second in the league with a last game against THT on Friday.
Backed by a band of world class players with the likes of Kemperman, Havenga, Valentin Verga from Holland, Kieran ian Govers and Timothy Deavin (Australia), Ireland goalkeeper David Harte and Malaysian internationals Marhan, Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim and national team captain Muhammad Sukri Abdul Mutalib, UniKL have been riding high since the league commenced last month.
Whilst the Dutch and Australians have been the focus of opposition teams as well as hockey fans, it is the stupendous performances of Izwan Firdaus, Faridzul Afiq Mohd, Muhammad Najmi Farizal Jazlan, Muhammad Ashran Hamsani and Muhammad Hafiz Zainol that had Arul pouring positive commentary.
“They have great understandings with the other members of the team upfront especially the foreign players and I am delighted to see them fully committed in training and during matches. The mood in the team is always great,” said Arul.
Izwan, 30, and a former international, scored five goals in five matches while Faridzul netted three.