Pahang's Zulhannan (on the ground) comes close to scoring
Pahang keeper Benny Anggara saves from Johor skipper Mohd Nor Hafiq
Johor failed to get off to a winning start in the National Under 21 Tournament as they conceded a goal 30 seconds from time to draw 1-1 against Pahang at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.
But the shock of the day was on the adjacent pitch where unsung Penang defeated the more fancied Kuala Lumpur 1-0.
Johor coach Chairil Anwar Abdul Aziz however preferred to look at the positive side of the outcome rather then losing sleep over the two points lost.
“We did not play well and credit to Pahang as they were the better side today,” said Chairil.
“The forwards did not hold on to the ball and dropped back to defend when they really should be putting pressure on the Pahang defence after we took the lead.
“Still it was the first game and we hope to learn from the mistakes and do better against Negri Sembilan tomorrow (Wednesday).”
It was all Pahang in the opening ten minutes of the match as they had Johor pinned in defence.
And the East Coast side could have well taken the lead in the 8th minute but Mohd Ikhwan failed to capitalize despite having only Johor keeper Mohammad Hairi to beat.
Johor started playing hockey after the initial scare and in the 15th minute, Manraj Singh was put through on the left but sent his reverse stick attempt wide.
And though Johor were awarded a penalty corner in the 20th minute, the attempt by skipper Mohd Nor Hafiq was kept out by Pahang keeper Benny Anggara.
Pahang forced their first penalty corner five minutes later but Wan Muhd Syafiq failed to find the target.
Both teams trooped off all square at half time. But it was Pahang that had the better start in the second half, forcing two penalty corners in quick succession but failed to make use of the opportunities.
The Johor forwards were guilty of holding on to the ball for too long and that resulted in turnovers that put undue pressure on their defence.
Having survived another two penalty corers, Johor launched a quick counter attack that saw Nor Hafiq sending an overhead pass to Manraj and it resulted in a penalty corner.
This time Nor Hafiq opted to send a low flick into the left hand corner of the Pahang goal and it caught Benny out and Johor lead 1-0 in the 52nd minute.
Johor then went into a defensive mode and this handed the initiative to Pahang who attacked relentlessly.
Pahang never gave up and their persistence paid off in the final minute as Mohammad Riffan sent a reverse stick hit sailing into the Johor goal to share the points.
In the Group A clash, the win for Penang was unexpected, as they had to absorb pressure throughout the second half before walking away with the three points.
Penang took the lead in the 32nd minute against the run of play after absorbing early KL pressure. And they held on to register a memorable win.
Muhammad Rahimi put then finishing touches to a penalty corner to shock the more fancied city side and give Penang a 1-0 lead.
However KL had only themselves to blame as they failed to put away the dozen penalty corners and numerous chances that came their way.
For Penang coach Bob Rajendran the win was totally unexpected.
“Before the match I was thinking just how many goals we would concede. But the players were focused and once we had taken the lead their confidence grew,” said Bob.
“But KL are a good side and it is just that we caught them on one of the days where nothing went right for them. They will bounce back from this and will be stronger after this setback.”
Johor 1 Pahang 1
Penang 1 Kuala Lumpur 0