KL Hockey Club edged Sapura 3-2 after coming from a goal down in a lacklustre display at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan this evening. And on the adjacent pitch, the woes of Terengganu HT continued when they were beaten 3-1 by unsung UniKL.
While KLHC will rejoice having retained their top spot at the halfway stage of the TNBMHL, they will surely be concerned at the sudden drop in form by some of their key players.
And as for UniKL, the win, their second in the MHL thus far will surely boost the confidence of the youngsters as they try to qualify for the quarterfinal stages.
"We played one of our worst matches thus far in the tournament and honestly we are lucky to walk away with full points. A few of our players opted to have an off day today and this is something we can ill-afford," said KLHC manager George Koshy.
"We need to play consistently and convert the chances created. There is no easy game in the MHL and this is a wake up call for my players that they just cannot afford to take any team lightly.
"All credit to Sapura, they really had us worried and it was composure and experience that won us the match today."
Sapura took the lead against the run of play as Azreen Rizal Nasir broke on the left, sending a teasing cross across the semi circle that was met sweetly by Mohammad azrul Hasbullah to turn into goal past a despairing dive by KLHC custodian Roslan Jamaluddin in the 6th minute.
And they could have extended their lead two minutes later when Faridzul Atiq Mohd went on a solo run but failed to get the better of Roslan.
KLHC had their first look at the Sapura goal in the 17th minute when Fareed Ahmad unleashed a reverse stick hit that flew inches wide of the upright. And that signalled their awakening.
But KLHC only found the equaliser in the 35th minute when Muhammad Imran sent in a powerful flick into the corner after KLHC had wasted three penalty corners in the 20th, 26th and 34th minutes.
Upon resunmption KLHC almost took the lead when Megat azrafiq Megat Termizi deflected the ball onto his own goalpost but it bounced clear to save the ex international blushes.
But they were playing better and were awarded a fifth penalty corner which Imran duly converted in the 48th minute to give KLHC the lead. Sapura tried to get back into the match but could not conjure a penalty corner despite some good work by Azreen and Izwan.
KLHC netted the third in the 54th minute with Chua Boon Huat nicely placed infront the keeper to deflect a Waseem Ahmad pass into goal. Khasif Ali converted a penalty corner in the 60th minute to reduce the deficit but could not capitalise on another two penalty corners in the 64th and 65th minutes to save a point for Sapura.
A hattrick by Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim spurred UniKL to the 3-1 win over Terengganu HT, who had a stellar cast of players but could not overcome the gritty youngsters from UniKL.
"It was a fantastic performance and I am really proud of the players. They showed what they are made off and never gave our opponents much space, always closing them down fast," said UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj.
"We hope to build from this and hopefully this will boost the confidence of the players."
Terengganu had two penalty corners in the 5th and 13th minutes but failed to capitalise. However UniKL made good of their penalty corners in the 18th and 22nd minutes, with Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim scoring on both occassions to give UniKL a 2-0 lead and take his personal tally in the MHL to six goals.
Terengganu pulled a goal back in the 40th minute when Jivan Mohan sent in a low flick that bounced off the keepers pad into goal. However Jivan could not repeat the feat despite two penalty corners in the 45th and 46th minutes.
But Faeez converted a penalty stroke in the 67th minute to give them all three points, and a move up the standings.