PENANG successfully retained the MHF-Milo National Under-16 girls’ hockey championship.
The Penang girls who had gone without a title to their name for more than a decade until they captured the crown last year, went on to show that success then was not a fluke as they marched on to their second successful Cup final date in Kangar, Perlis.
Driven by a desire to keep the Penang flag flying high, they confidently powered their way to a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Negri Sembilan to make sure that they retained the crown in style.
Coach Leo Viceroy was grinning from ear to ear when the final whistle went off.
“It was a final we deserved to win,” said Leo, who incidentally is the hockey head coach of Penang Sports School SMK Mutiara Impian.
“My girls wanted so much to retain the crown that everyone played their role to perfection. Despite trailing in the early stages, we fought back gallantly to show that we are indeed a championship side.”
Thus when his player Mimie Zulaikha Zaini was adjudged the Best Player of the final, Leo understandably burst into tears of joy.
Penang’s final game against Negri Sembilan had just passed the 14th minute mark when they found themselves trailing by Nurhaifa Abdul Kadir’s unstoppable field goal.
But with the bulk of the Penang side being built around 16 Mutiara Impian players and the remaining two in Nur Adriana and Nurhafiah being specially brought home from the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School, their slick understanding proved enough for them to continue playing cohesively as a team.
The Negri Sembilan side were put under tremendous pressure as they rallied their way back into the game, but the continuous Penang pressure told on their defence which caved in just four minutes later, allowing Nur Hafizah Maznan to knock home the equaliser in the 18th minute.
That was enough to initiate both teams into end-to-end exchanges as they went searching for the lead.
Still, it was Penang who had the final say in the half when Mimie weaved her way through the defence to give Penang a 2-1 lead at the breather.
With Penang highly inspired by their success in turning around the game, they came back for the second half a revitalised team.
This paid dividends in the 58th minute and as expected, it was Mimie, who made it happen, knocking home Penang’s third after a goalmouth melee.
Mimie’s success in helping herself to a brace put the match beyond Negri Sembilan when they failed to put their scoring act together. The 3-1 scoreline confirmed Penang as champions for the second year running.
Pahang, one of the two semi-finalists, also completed their campaign among the medallists.
Beating East Coast rivals Kelantan 2-0 in the shootout after both teams were deadlocked at 2-2 in their third placing play-off, Pahang picked up the bronze medal.
Results: S-finals: Penang bt Kelantan (3-2); Negri Sembilan bt Pahang (2-0 on penalties after being tie 2-2 at full-time); Final: Penang bt Negri Sembilan (3-1).