TUNKU Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI)-Thunderbolts wrestled back the Milo-junior Hockey League Division One title from UniKL Young Guns when they played to a 1-1 draw at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru yesterday.
Thunderbolts and UniKL ended their fixtures tied on 22 points, and also have a six goal cushion each but Thunderbolts scored 44 goals while UniKL 43 and that thin line separated both the teams.
This is the third season that Thunderbolts-UniKL matches ended in a 1-1 draw, with Thunderbolts claiming the title on goals in 2010, while UniKL lifted the title also on goals in 2011. Thunderbolts returned the favour yesterday.
"We were not as sharp as our other seven league matches, and did just enough to hold onto the draw which gave us back the League title we won in 2010. And now, we would be gunning for the elusive double in the knock-out stages," said Thunderbolts coach Wan Roslan.
UniKL manager Amir Azhar said they did not lose against Thunderbolts for the last three seasons, but a draw was not what they had in mind today.
"We had sound plans to seal a victory, but my players were overcome by emotion and the plan went out the window. UniKL lost 50 percent of our target today (yesterday) but there is still the Overall title to plan for now," said Amir.
Thunderbolts almost scored in the 16th minute but instead were awarded their first penalty corner of the match, however, Shahril Saabah's flick was well saved by UniKL goalkeeper Shukor Safie.
But they kept attacking and forced another penalty corner in the 20th minute, and this time, Shahril's attempt was charged down but Amir Zulkarnain sent home the rebound to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
The goal woke up UniKL and they won four penalty corners in a span of three minutes, but failed to score. However, they got their break in the 32nd minute, when Hafiz Zainol deflected in a shot from Syafiq Zulzairin and both teams walked into the dresssing room on level terms.
The second half started with UniKL looking more promising, but still muffed sitters and the draw at the moment was more favourable to Thunderbolts than the university side.
However, the electrifying final almost turned into a free-for-all in the 48th minute, when Thunderbolts player Huzairy Zin hit UniKL player Haziq Samsul who fell to the ground grimacing in pain.
Players from both sides started shoving and pushing each other, and the incident almost turned ugly but UniKL manager Amir Azhar ran onto the pitch and pulled back his players.
Huzairy was sent off with a yellow card, and Thunderbolts were a man-down for at least the next 10 minutes.
UniKL used the one-man advantage to the hilt, but all their moves were stopped just outside the Thunderbolts semi-circle, and then they lost Hafiz Zainol to a yellow card in the 57th minute to square the equation.
However, Thunderbolts held on a series of assaults in the final minutes, to claim the League title on goals scored.
Meanwhile, Sapura won the Division Two title which came with a RM12,000 purse when they edged Malacca High School with two late goals.
Both team also qualified for the knockout stages of the MILO Cup that will commence next Friday.
Malacca HC, who received RM8,500, missed a penalty stroke and a sitter before Sapura's Meor Ahmad gave them the lead in the 58th minute, while Zulhilmi Muhammad made sure of victury a minute later.
In the bronze decider, Batu Pahat beat Politeknik KPT 1-0 courtesy of Nazlan Tumirin who scored in the 47th minute. Batu Pahat pocketed RM7,000 while Politeknik RM6,000.
RESULTS: DIVISION ONE -- SSTMI-Thunderbolts 1 UniKL 1, SSTMI 2 USM-MSSPP Juniors 5.
THIRD PLACING: Politeknik KPT 0 Batu Pahat 1.
FINAL: Sapura 2 Malacca High School 0.
P W D L F A Pts
THUNDERBOLTS 8 7 1 0 44 8 22
UNIKL 8 7 1 0 43 7 22
BJSS 8 5 1 2 30 17 16
Anderson 8 4 1 3 28 27 13
USM Jnrs 8 4 1 3 21 24 13
MBPJ 8 3 0 5 20 21 9
SSTMI 8 2 0 6 14 38 6
TBSS 8 1 1 6 15 34 4
BJSS Jnrs 8 0 0 8 5 44 0