SSTMI Thunderbolts virtually qualified for the final of the Junior Hockey League Milo Cup when they hit MBI Anderson of Ipoh 5-2 in the first leg semi-finals at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
UniKL Young Guns also came back from the dead to win 3-1, to keep themselves on track for a final appearance.
However, both the semi-finals looked like they were heading for upsets, when Anderson took a 2-1 lead against Thunderbolts, while Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) also drew first blood against UniKL.
Thunderbolts, who whitewashed Andersons 6-0 in the League, took matters for granted after Khairol Shafik scored in the 12th minute.
Anderson returned the favour when skipper Najib Hassan scored off a penalty corner set-piece.
Azril Misron then made it 2-1 in the 22nd minute but Sufi Ismat equalised at 2-2 in the 24th and the score remained until the breather.
However, Thunderbolts showed why they were crowned the League champions when they when the sealed the semi-finals with three goals within 10 minutes when Sufi Ismat scored in the 38th minute before skipper Shazril Irwan Nazli made it 4-2 with a goal in the 40th minute. Sufi completed his hat-trick in the 45th minute to make it 5-2.
BJSS shocked UniKL when Azrul Hasbullah scored in the run of play in the 13th minute in pouring rain. But the joy was shortlived, when UniKL's Haziq Samsul scored in the 34th minute.
After the breather, UniKL retook the lead off Hafiz Zainol in the 40th minute and a third goal from Syafiq Zulzairin in the 65th minute gave them some breathing space for the return leg.
Thunderbolts coach Wan Roslan was himself shocked with the way his team played in the first half.
"There was a total lack of understanding between the midfield and forwardline, and when BJSS scored it rattled my players further. However, they came back strongly after the breather, and now we are looking forward to seal the return leg early to avoid unnecessary pressure," said Wan Roslan.
Thunderbolts only had two penalty corners yesterday but JHL top-scorer Shahril Saabah failed to increase his tally which stands at 15.
"We scored five field goals today (yesterday) and misse both penalty corner opportunities. This must be arrested early in the return leg
to avoid second half pressure." said Wan Roslan.
RESULTS -- Semi-finals, first leg: SSTMI-Thunderbolts 5 MBI Anderson 2, Bukit Jalil SS 1 UniKL 3.
FRIDAY -- Semi-finals, return leg: UniKL v Bukit Jalil SS (5pm), MBI Anderson v SSTMI Thunderbolts (7.30pm).
(All semi-final matches at Pitch II of the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil).