KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura and Yayasan Negri Sembilan (YNS) put themselves in a strong position to make the semi-finals of the Malaysia Hockey League with convincing wins in the quarter-finals first-leg matches at the Tun Razak Stadium yesterday.
Sapura defeated Maybank 3-0 while YNS beat Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) 4-2.
Premier Division champions KL Hockey Club (KLHC) and runners-up Tenaga Nasional are almost assured of making the semis after scoring 11-2 and 6-0 wins over Bandar Penawar SS (BPSS) and Armed Forced Juniors respectively.
Sapura’s South Korean Lim Woo-geun was in top form, scoring two penalty corners goals in the 32nd and 33rd minutes following team-mate Ahmad Kazamirul’s field goal in the 26th minute.
In the second half both teams had ample chances to score but muffed their attempts.
In the battle of the foreign legions, it was YNS who came out on top with their imported players scoring the goals.
But their hero is definitely local goalkeeper Mohamed Hafizi Baharom who was fielded instead of India’s Tarun Thammanah.
And he did not disappointed by saving two sure goals in the second half and YNS coach Haznizam Ah Sim was quick to give credit to Hafizi’s efforts.
“Hafizi’s saves kept us in the game. But it is not over yet. A two-goal margin is not safe as UniKL have the players to turn it around. We have to plan again for the return leg,” said Haznizam.
YNS took the lead in the 21st minute through India’s S. Aravind while compatriot Deepak Thakur added the second in the 24th minute.
UniKL pulled a goal back through their penalty corner specialist Kiwi Richard Patherick in the 33rd minute.
UniKL were the more aggressive side in the second half but failed to capitalise on the four penalty corners that came their way.
Deepak made it 3-1 in the 38th minute and Shakeel Abbasi added the fourth for YNS in the 70th minute.
But with just five seconds left a quick counter attack saw UniKL reduced the deficit through German Philipp Stahr.
UniKL coach Darren Smith was relieved over the last goal as it kept them in the chase for a last four berth.
“We should have got more goals especially in the second half. We did well as we were up against experienced internationals and their finishing today was clinical. Their first two goals were very good,” said Smith.
Earlier, as expected, KLHC and Tenaga proved too good for Division One champions Armed Forces and runners-ip BPSS.
For BPSS, scoring two goals against star studded KLHC was a bonus. Their goals came from Mohamed Syafik Nordin (32nd) and Mohamed Hadfiz (58th).
KLHC’s penalty corner specialist Mohamed Razie Rahim (pic) scored a hat-trick (18th, 29th, 70th) while Mohamed Ammerrulah (19, 53) and Ismail Abu (42, 65) netted braces.
Their other goals came from Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (5th), Baljit Singh (7th), Chua Boon Huat (36th) and Harvinder Singh (55th).
KLHC and Tenaga are in different half of the draw and if they do meet it will be in the final.
KLHC play the winners of the YNS-UniKL match while Tenaga take on the winners of the Sapura-Maybank tie.
The second leg will be played tomorrow.
KL HOCKEY CLUB 11 BPSS 2
YAYASAN NS 4 UNIKL 2
SAPURA 3 MAYBANK 0
A. FORCES JRS 0 TENAGA 6
SECOND LEG (TOMORROW)
TENAGA vs A. FORCES JRS. 4.00pm
MAYBANK vs SAPURA 6.00pm
UNIKL vs YAYASAN NS 8.00pm
(Tun Razak Stadium, KL)
BPSS vs KL HOCKEY CLUB 5.00pm (KL Hockey Stadium)