It was TNB’s second straight win following last week’s 2-1 victory over Maybank to go top of the six-team table standings with six points.
Double champions Terengganu Hockey Team, who suffered a humiliating 6-2 drubbing by Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the Charity Shield, also bounced back to defeat Maybank 5-1 with a hat-trick from Faizal Saari (ninth, 28th and 39th), Jose Leandro Tolini (41st, PC) and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (42nd, FG) while Muhammad Amerullah Abd Aziz replied for Maybank (37th).
In the last match of the day, a rejuvenated Sapura packed enough power to hold KLHC to a 3-3 draw at the adjacent National Hockey Stadium pitch.
Sapura opened accounts in the 3rd minute through Norsyafiq Sumantri but KLHC drew level in the 14th minute from a Razie Rahim field goal. Sapura, however, took a 2-1 lead just one minute later through Muhammad Imran (PC) but KLHC clawed back to level score at 2-2 through Rashid Baharom’s field goal (19th).
KLHC, however, went on to take the lead for the first time through Pakistani Muhammad Umar Bhutta (37th) but the jubilation was short-lived when Faridzul Afiq latched on a loose ball to nail the equalizer in the 48th minute from a field goal.
With the experience of Haziq Samsul, Baljit Singh, Izwan Firdaus and Meor Azuan who featured in the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp and foreign signings Richard Sykes, Patrick Neil Schultz and Jethro Ray Eustice together with 10 players from the Project 2016 squad, UniKL were poised to provide a strong challenge to the all-local outfit team of TNB.
The match was expected to draw fireworks from both sides and it was UniKL who suffered a 2-1 defeat against Sapura in the season’s opening match last Sunday that were drawn by the early inspiration to take a first minute lead through Muhammad Najmi Farizal off a penalty corner, beating an outstretched goalkeeper S. Kumar.
Arul Selvaraj’s UniKL had a better control of the game for the first quarter but it was wasn’t smooth sailing beyond that for UniKL as TNB made several breakthroughs.
Their perseverance paid dividend in the 27th minute when they earned a penalty corner and Muhammad Shahril Saabah placed it neatly past goalkeeper Khairulnizam Ibrahim to level score 1-1.
UniKL, however, threw all they had in the third quarter to extend the lead to 2-1 in the 41st minute through Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Ghafar as he fired home from close range after picking a rebound when the ball struck match umpire Iskandar Rashdan below the knee from a long clearance.
But TNB were back on top of their opponents in the final quarter through two field goals - midfielder Azril Misron (57th) and Muhamad Ramadan (58th) which ended UniKL’s hopes of winning their first match.
TNB assistant coach, M. Kaliswaran, said: “I am very happy with this win. Despite being the only team with no foreign signings, I am proud to say the boys played well in the last two matches. They are young and displayed great determination today to get back into the game after going 2-1 down. The result speaks volume of our commitment.”
Arul, meanwhile, laments the defeat to poor mental strength and tiredness after the third quarter which saw TNB mount a strong comeback.
“It boils down to accountability and responsibility. It was a good game from the players. We had the match in control in the first quarter and eased off in the second but they were tired by the end of the third quarter and this allowed TNB to score the winning goals,” said Arul.
Arul, however, was pleased to note that all 16 players from the Project 2016 squad – 10 from UniKL and six from TNB played exceptionally well against senior players.
Results – Premier Division: Tenaga Nasional Berhad 3 Universiti Kuala Lumpur 2; Terengganu Hockey Team 5 Maybank 1; Sapura 3 Kuala Lumpur HC 3.
Men’s Division 1A: TNB Thunderbolt 2 MSP-YP-SSP 0; Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh 1 MSNT/THT 0; Division 1B: PKS-KPM 4 Nur Insafi 4.
Women’s Group A: ATM Pernama 1 The Cops 0; Politeknik Malaysia 2 Penang Juniors 0; Group B: PKS-KPM 3 MSN Kedah 1.
Fixtures – Tomorrow: Men’s Div 1A: MASUM USM v BJSS (KLHA Stadium, 5.0), UniKL Young Guns v Politeknik Malaysia (National Hockey Stadium, 5.0); Div 1B: UITM v SSTMI (National Hockey Stadium, Bukit Jalil, 7.0), ATM Airod v Nur Insafi (Stadium Tun Razak, 5.0).
Women’s Group B: SSTMI Thunderbolts v KL SUKMA (Taman Daya, JB, 5.0), Manjung HA v PKS-KPM (Stadium Sultan Azlan Shah, Ipoh, 5.0), MSN v Kedah v UITM Lions (Padang Serai, 5.0).
SUNDAY – Premier Division: Maybank v Sapura (6.0pm), Universiti Kuala Lumpur v Kuala Lumpur HC (8.0pm), Tenaga Nasional Berhad v Terengganu Hockey Team (8.0pm). All matches at National Hockey Stadium, Bukit Jalil.