UniKL triumph over Maybank to emerge League champions

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Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) clawed back from a one goal deficit to edge Maybank 2-1 and in the process clinched the 2019 Malaysian Hockey Premier League title at the Tengku Abdullah Stadium in Bangi today.

The victory brought an end to UniKL’s nine-year wait for the Premier League title since making their debut in 2011. Watched by an estimated 300 fans the 2018 TNB Cup champions earned RM100,000 in prize money for their triumph.

In the first round of the league, UniKL defeated Maybank 5-1 at the same venue but the Tigers were a transformed side in this second round encounter.

UniKL’s journey to the top came with an unbeaten record of 10 consecutive wins. The only blemish in their track is the 2-2 draw against defending league champions Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) in the Charity Shield on January 11.

Arul Selvaraj’s team have now amassed 31 points – four ahead of TNB and have a game in hand against TNB Thunderbolts on Friday. TNB, at best, will finish in second place spot even if they beat THT on Friday having pooled 27 points as of now.

“We are excited to win the league after so many years. We dedicate this victory to UniKL President and Chief Executive Officer Prof Dato’ Dr Mazliham Mohd Su’ud and UniKL Hockey Club president Dato’ Amir Azhar Ibrahim who have supported the team. This victory belongs to UniKL,” said Arul.

“Our ultimate priority is the TNB Cup after this and we will definitely focus on that to retain the title. Our structure is the same. Today Maybank gave us a tough match and I was expecting that from them. I was not surprised,” he added.

The Tigers, seeking to redeem their battered and bruised pride following the 7-2 demolition by Tenaga Nasional Berhad last Sunday, were very much on top of UniKL in the first four minutes and surprised their far illustrious host with the opening goal.

Muhammad Zulhamizan Awang Abas broke through a disarray defence, dummied Australian Timothy Deavin and sneaked the ball past goalkeeper David Harte to go 1-0 up.

UniKL, however, bounced back with an array of counter attacks but could not find a route to score despite earning four penalty corners in the first quarter. Much of Maybank’s good work to deny UniKL came from goalkeeper Muhammad Zaimi Mat Deris who was in great form.

But the highly exciting match soon turned into UniKL’s favour in the second quarter. Rafizul Ezry Mustafa scored the equaliser in the 26th minute and Dutchman Valentin Verga extended the lead 2-1 with a blistering shot from an acute angle near the goal line two minutes later.

The third and fourth quarters was evenly contested. Both teams were outstanding in defence to keep each other off the scoreboard although UniKL had a total of six penalty corners in the match.

And at the final hooter, each of UniKL players exchanged their orange coloured jerseys with a black t-shirt with the words “Champions” emblazoned on it and celebrated under a light drizzle.

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