Australians pip KL to National Under-21 crown


BY S. RAMAGURU

KUALA LUMPUR: Debutants New South Wales Institute of Sports (NSWIS) emerged as champions of the National Under-21 hockey tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday – pipping title-holders Kuala Lumpur in a pulsating final which served up 11 goals. 

The lead changed hands three times before the Australians triumphed 6-5. KL were down 1-2 at half time but bounced back to take a 4-2 lead after 43 minutes of play. 

NSWIS then drew level and went ahead but KL refused to throw in the towel and levelled the score at 5-5. The match appeared to be heading for extra time but with a minute left on the clock, the Australians struck the winner. 

The winning Aussie team during the prize-giving ceremony.

It was certainly a grand finale to the tournament with elements of skills, speed and great teamwork. The Australians had the slight advantage in organised play to troop out as winners. 

NSWIS manager Tony Hall said: “This final brought the best out of both teams. You cannot get a better game than this at this level. 

“This has been a perfect tournament for us. We thank the MHF for the invite. The experience was invaluable to the young players. We want to be regulars in this tournament and we hope that we get to come back to defend the title.” 

KL manager Avtar Pandhir said: “Many thought that we would be in for a hiding. But our players proved them wrong. It was just a defensive error that cost us the match.” 

KL had to make a change to their formation with the suspension of defender Wan Mohamed Azrizal. Jivan Mohan had to play in defence and K. Regan took up a midfield role. 

Stuart Fletcher gave NSWIS the lead in the seventh minute. He collected a long pass in the 25-yard line and made a dash into the D to slam a hefty shot past goalkeeper Mohamed Hanapi. 

The Australians kept up the attack with their speedy play. In the 22nd minute, they earned a penalty corner and Brendan Booth made the conversion with a direct flick. 

KL pulled a goal back off their third penalty corner attempt in the 29th minute. Azlan Misron’s first attempt was saved by goalkeeper Kent Haigh but the ball fell for Mohamed Redza Maadun who scored with a high flick. 

ON THE MARK: Kuala Lumpur's Kamaruddin Abdul Rahman (left) deflects the ball past goalkeeper Kent Haigh of NSWIS during the National Under 21 hockey final on Wednesday.

KL hit a purple patch in the opening five minutes of the second half to get back on level terms with a penalty corner hit by defender Engku Abdul Malek. 

They went on to score two more goals in a space of two minutes to take a 4-2 lead. 

A perfect one-two by internationals Azlan and Tajol Rosli in the 25-yard line saw them getting the ball into the D for Kamaruddin Abdul Rahman to deflect into goal from close range in the 43rd minute. 

Tajol then made a strike from the top of the D for his 10th goal of the tournament, which gave him the top scorer's award, to put KL in front. 

But the Australians came charging back. Mathew Naylor narrowed the deficit in the 46th minute and Jeremy Waizal equalised in the 54th minute. 

In the 62nd minute, Engku had the ball in the NSWIS' goal but his penalty corner strike was disallowed by umpire Bahari Menan. The KL players protested but to no avail. 

The very next minute the Australians, in a quick counter attack, scored through Naylor, who flung himself to deflect in a cross. 

Three minutes from time, Redza Maadun kept KL alive. He dribbled the ball to the sideline and his shot from an acute angle beat Haigh. 

But there was to be no extra time. The Australians capitalised on KL's loose marking in the D and Alex Hardman knocked in the winner. 

Pahang took third place with a 2-0 win over Perak. The goals were scored by Mohamed Al Fadir and Zarit Zainal.

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