Sep 14, 2015

Sapura and Maybankgo through

A rejuvenated Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) defied the odds to beat Sapura Hockey Club 3-2 in the second-leg quarterfinals of the TNB Cup but failed to advance beyond at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

It was Arul Selvaraj’s UniKL’s first ever win in the TNBMHL 2015 season in 12 matches but one that simply came too late.

Sapura, buoyed by the 3-0 win in the first-leg quarterfinals tie, advancedto Tuesday’s first-leg
semifinals on a 5-3 aggregate score. They are set to meet four-time champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club.

In another quarterfinal match, Maybank once again came out of the shadow of
TenagaNasionalBerhad (TNB) to carve a 3-2 victory (aggregate 5-3)and stepped into the semifinals for a gigantic battle against double champions Terengganu Hockey Team.

S. Vellapan’s Maybank, who lost to TNB 1-2 in both home and away Premier Division matches,scrapped through the first-leg quarterfinals tie 2-1 over their nemesis.

Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin gave Maybank a 14th minute penalty corner goal lead but Muhamad Sharil Saabah equalised for TNB in the 27th minute from a penalty corner.

With both teams chasing for a big win, it was Maybank who went ahead 2-1 in the 42nd minute as Hafifi hafiz Hanafi sounded the board from a goalmouth melee and AhmadKazamirul struck again five minutes after the start of the third quarter to extend Maybank’s lead to 3-1.

TNB, however, staged a gallant fight back after this and Muhamad Ramadan Rosli closed the gap at 3-2 in the 52nd minute from a penalty corner much to the delight of the TNB fans. As the match went into top gear, it was Maybank who stood defiant and marched into the last eight.

Pakistan’s import Muhammad Imran, who scored a brace against UniKL in the first-leg quarterfinals, was once again on target in this second round encounter, scoring just five minutes into the game from a penalty corner.

It was the 35-year-old Imran, captain ofPakistan’s national team at the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in Belgium in July,third goal against UniKL in this quarterfinals encounter and his seventh in the TNBMHL 2015 season.

UniKL clawed back from that early deficit to draw level 1-1 through Muhammad Azwar Abdul Rahman after Imran’s opener from a field goal and by the 14th minute Sapura went 2-1 up thanks to Faridzul Afiq’s field goal.

But UniKL were far from done and were on track firing on all cylinders in the third quarter. Richard Sykes penalty corner conversion in the 43rd minute and Mohamad Haziq Samsul’s field goal two minutes later was celebrated by the UniKL camp as never have they produced such scintillating and determined performance as they did tonight.

And if there was anyone in the Sapura line-up who deserved all the accolades for stomping UniKL’s many more chances at scoring more goals towards the end of the match it was their goalkeeper Mohamed Hairi Abdul Rahman.

Hairi parried away five penalty corner attempts, of which three were certain of going into the net, to deny UniKL of a bigger win.

“It was a well-deserved win for UniKL although it came at our last match today. The players gave all their best and this augurs well for some of our national junior players,” said UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj.

“To me, the man of the match was Sapura goalkeeper (Hairi). He was everywhere stopping the ball from going in the net. We had so many chances towards the end but he stopped us,” added Arul.

While the show ends here for UniKL, a bigger stage awaits Sapura when they face K. Dharmaraj’s KLHC in the semifinals.

Sapura’s head coach, Tai HengHai, laments: “I think generally having a 3-0 lead we just want to qualify for the semifinals. We don’t want to make it any difficult as the semifinal is on Tuesday and we have played four games in seven days.”

“KLHC would have got a good rest and we will take it from here. It was a tough match today but we held on to win. There were several chances that came our way today but for now we will focus on our next game now,” he added.

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