Coach S. Vellapan’s Maybank now go into Thursday’s second-leg semifinals show with a two-goal advantage.
Meanwhile, four-time champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) demolished Sapura Hockey Club 6-0 in the first-leg semifinal match.
Pakistan’s Umar Bhutta scored a hat-trick (first, 12th and 29th minutes) from penalty corners and drag-flick specialist Razie Rahim nailed the fourth in the 30th minute in similar fashion while Ahmad Ajaz (54th) and Dedi Aryadi(58th) added to Sapura’s misery.
It was Sapura’s third match within a space of six days after having seen tough matches in the home-and-away quarterfinals ties earlier while KLHC returned to the pitch after a 10-day respite.
“My boys played with a strong desire to win knowing that THT is one of the strongest sides in the tournament. The boys were fantastic and worked hard for this victory,” said Vellapan in a post-match interview.
“But a two-goal advantage is not enough to hold against a THT side. We have to go all out for more goals as this is a good opportunity to make or break,” he added.
THT named Pabllo Javier Trevisan and Jose Leandro Tiloni, two of their four Argentinean players in the starting line-up and Pakistani Ammad Shakeel Butt while Maybank had Pakistan’s national team goalkeeper Imran Butt, Muhammad Irfan, Shafqat Rasool and India’s Deepanshu Bhargav on parade.
And in a classic stage of ‘Penalty Corners Fair’, it was Maybank who surprised the favourites by taking a 3-1 lead by the end of the second quarter with a brace from Irfan(14th and 27th minutes) and Hafifi hafiz Hanafi’s 23rd minute penalty stroke.
THT, who had outclassed Maybank 5-1 and 3-2 respectively in their two-leg Premier Division matches, leveled the score 1-1 through Faizal Shaari in the 17th minute off a penalty corner after Irfan’sopening strike.
Stunned by the early setback, THT coach Sarjit Singh replaced National No 3 goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman with Mohamed Hazrul Faiz two minutes before the end of the second quarter.
But that move did not help THT’s cause as Maybank continued to pulverize the east coast giants with another mesmerizing performance in the third quarter.
This time it was Mohamad Syafiq Zain who turned in a powerful reverse stick shot into the top of the net in the 42nd minute to give Maybank an unassailable 4-1 lead much to the surprise of their own fans and THT.
However, the best of THT was only put on show in a thrilling end as they struck back with goals from Tengku Ahmad Tajuddinin the 45th minute and Faizal made it 4-3 five minutes later, bringing his personal goal tally to 15 in the tournament.
THT went on the search for the equalizer to force a draw with numerous attacks and were rewarded five penalty corners in the last seven minutes of play only to see goalkeeper Imran frustrating all attempts.
And in a sudden burst of counter attack, it was Syafiq who powered Maybank in the closing chapter of the match withhis precision touch for a field goal in the 59th minute to give his side the most celebrated victory.
Sarjit, however, laments that fans have not seen the last of THT.
“We will bounce back in the return-leg on Thursday. We had numerous chances to even win this match but fell back. It’s not over yet,” said Sarjit, adding that all of his players are free of injuries.