KUALA LUMPUR: Premier Division champions KL Hockey Club have virtually sealed their place in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) semi-finals after thrashing Armed Forces-Airod 10-2 in the first leg of their last eight match at the KL Hockey Stadium yesterday.
Division One outfit Armed Forces managed to put up a fight in the early stages with their hard-running game but KLHC proved too good in the end.
At the Tun Razak Stadium, Sapura also took a giant step towards the semi-finals with a 4-1 win over Penang’s Nur Insafi.
KLHC and Sapura are on collision course as they are in the top half of the draw.
In the other quarter-final matches, Maybank and Universiti KL-Ibil drew 3-3 while Tenaga Nasional defeated UITM 2-0.
In the KLHC-Armed Forces game, the Premier Division champions stormed ahead as early as in the ninth minute through a penalty corner conversion by Mohd Razie Rahim.
But the gritty army side, who were runners-up in Division One, hit back three minutes later with an Ahmad Ridzuan Zainal Abidin field goal.
Mohd Razie restored KLHC’s lead with another penalty corner goal in the 24th minute, and that opened the floodgates for the champions.
National forward Chua Boon Huat helped himself to a hat-trick (27th, 31st and 45th minutes) while two other national players – Ismail Abu (28th, 43rd) and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (64th, 66th) – grabbed a brace each. Harvender Singh added his name to the scoresheet in the 52nd minute.
Mohd Hanip Che Halim scored Forces’ second goal in the 61st minute.
KLHC coach R. Vivekanandan was pleased with the result, saying it would allow him to field the reserves for the return-leg tomorrow.
“Armed Forces played well and were very fit. But their plan to play an open game against us backfired as it gave my players plenty of space to exploit,” he said.
“Now we will use the opportunity on Sunday to test our fringe players and see how they handle the pressure. We need to maintain our performance level even if we field the reserves.”
At the Tun Razak Stadium, heavy rain forced the first match between Sapura and Nur Insafi to be delayed for almost an hour.
But when the downpour stopped, Sapura got going.
Newly-wed Jiwa Mohan opened the scoring with a field goal in the fifth minute before Mohd Rodhanizam doubled their advantage in the 14th minute.
Further goals from youngsters Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil (42nd) and Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin (48th) ensured them a comfortable advantage for tomorrow’s return leg although Sandeep Michael managed to reduce the deficit for Nur Insafi in the 60th minute.
In the third quarter-final, Maybank let slip the lead twice before finally settling for a thrilling 3-3 draw with Universiti KL-Ibil at the Tun Razak Stadium.Maybank led 1-0 at halftime thanks to Mohd Azammi Adabi’s 16th minute field goal.
The young UniKL players came back strongly after the break.
Khairil Annuar Mat Isa equalisedin the 37th minute from a penalty corner set piece before Mohd Noor Faeez’s 43rd minute field goal saw them go 2-1 up.
It was then Maybank’s turn to hit back with two goals in two minutes.
Hafifihafiz Hanafi equalised for Maybank in the 63rd minute.
Two minutes later, Azammi scored again to put the Tigers 3-2 ahead.
But UniKL refused to be beaten and Noor Faeez’s 67th minute equaliser has ensured a tense return-leg tomorrow.