A late, late winner from Abdul Razif Abdul Rahim deep into extra time gave SMK Zaba of Negeri Sembilan a hard fought 2-1 win over favourites Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in the final of the Minister of Education League Cup (MELC) Under-14 to lift the crown for the first time in their history.
Both SMK Zaba and also SSTMI made the final for the first time ever this year where both put up a great showing of attacking football to push the game into extra time after the score was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation.
But in the end, hosts STTMI just could not hold their nerves as they fell to the late strike from Abdul Razif with just seconds left of the second-half of extra time to allow SMK Zaba to snatch the win and the title.
“We were under pressure for much of the game especially when we were a goal down at the end of the first half,” said Mazwan Mansor, the head coach of SMK Zaba after the game on Saturday.
“But the players stuck together and did not lose hope. We managed to then score the equalizer and then the winner.
“It was a fabulous night for us especially when we knew that no one gave us any hope to win this game. The players played a tremendous match.”
Backed by several hundred at the stand, STTMI was full of confidence as they pressured their opponents right from the start. This left SMK Zaba to play it more defensive and look for ways to move forward.
And while SSTMI was controlling the game for much of the first half, they only managed to find the back of the net in the 27th minute when Mohd Nasip Mohammad Zain pounced on a defensive lapse.
With 35 minutes in each half, SMK Zaba then stepped up a gear into the second half in search of the equaliser. As SSTI missed chances after chances as they fail to work together upfront, it allowed SMK Zaba to push forward.
Five minutes to the end, Nur Aiman Nashriq Yuslan then slotted home the equaliser to force the game into extra-time.
With just ten minutes of each half of extra-time to play, it was all-battle all the way until Abdul Razif blasted in the winner with seconds left of the game to bring the crown back to Kuala Pilah this time round.
“We did not play our usual game. The boys seem to be under pressure,” added SSTMI coach Richard Scully afterwards.
“I know it is disappointing especially for the players. They have put in more than 100% all season long and to lose the final really hurts.
“But this is football and the players should take it as part of their learning curve. They will all be the better for it next season.”
The MELC and 100PLUS Super Cup are among several youth programmes and competitions supported by 100PLUS, Malaysia’s leading isotonic beverage.
The others include the 100PLUS Malaysian Junior Golf Open and the 100PLUS National Junior Badminton Circuit. 100PLUS is recommended by the National Sports Council.
RESULTS – FINAL U14
SMK Zaba (NEGERI SEMBILAN) 2
Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School 1