Perak defeated Penang 4-2 in the National Under 21 Tournament to keep their hopes alive after their opening match defeat at the hands of Malacca at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru.
The win by Perak threw open the race for the semifinals for Group B as Penang had defeated Kuala Lumpur the previous day and all four teams have three points apiece. However the situation could well change as Malacca will play against Kuala Lumpur in a later match.
“We made use of the chances that came our way but lost our concentration in the later stages of the match,” said Perak coach Kulwant Singh.
“ The team is starting to play as a unit. We had a good game against Malacca too but failed to put away our chances. But conceding the two goals is something we can ill afford as it can cost us a match if the score was closer.
“Playing Kuala Lumpur will not be easy as they have a good side but we will play our usual style of attacking hockey as that wins matches and only a win can give us a place in the semis.”
Perak took the lead in the 20th minute, largely due to a defensive blunder by Penang's Mohd Khairul Naim Johari.
Khairul had saved an initial attempt by Muhammad Haziq Samsul on the goal line but sent his clearance straight to Mohd Soffian Kamaruddin, who had no problems putting the ball into the unguarded goal.
Penang could have equalised in the very next minute but national trainee Mohd Rashid Baharom failed to get the better of Perak custodian Mohd Aliff Mohd Azman in a one to one situation.
And Perak made most of the reprieve when Muhammad Sabri Muhammad converted a penalty corner in the 24th minute to give his team a 2-0 lead.
Mohd Harris Fadila Zulkifli made it 3-0 in the 31st minute and Penang were a beaten side, tired after their exploits against Kuala Lumpur the previous day.
Perak did not let off in the second half, as they realized that goal difference could well determine the final positions in the group, and added to their tally in the 45th minute, this time Mohd Heiry Pami finishing off a move from the right to make it 4-0 in favour of Perak.
Rashid managed to reduce the deficit for Penang in the 55th minute when he defected in a penalty corner, but Penang had lost the match in the first half itself.
Penang reduced the deficit through Khairul in the dying seconds and will need to defeat Malacca on Friday to stand a chance of making the last four.
Meanwhile Pahang blew their chances of netting full points in their Group A clash against Selangor when they allowed Selangor to share the spoils despite being in the lead twice.
Pahang took the lead in the 19th minute through Mohammad Aminuddin Abu only for Mohd Noor Faez Ibrahim to convert a penalty corner in the 40th minute to draw Selangor level. It was the Project 2013 player’s fourth goal in two matches, after his hattrick in Selangor’s 4-3 win over Negri Sembilan yesterday.
But Pahang was undeterred and in the 45th minute went 2-1 ahead when Nor Nashriq Farhan Nor Azmi converted a penalty corner.
Selangor scored a minute from time through Mohd Alfifi Arshad whose shot from the edge of the semi circle sailed into goal.
And Selangor could have snatched all three points as they were awarded a penalty corner in the dying seconds but Faez could not find the mark.
Pahang will have to defeat Negri Sembilan in their last match on Friday to have a chance of making the semis.
“We blew our chances of having one foot in the semis through defensive mistakes. And now our fate lies in the outcome of the other matches,” said Pahang coach Mohd Yazid Yunus.
“This is not a position that I would have wanted to be but we have only ourselves to blame.”
P W D L G A PTS
Selangor 2 1 1 0 6 5 4
Pahang 2 0 2 0 3 3 2
Johor 1 0 1 0 1 1 0
N. S 1 0 0 1 3 4 0
P W D L G A PTS
Perak 2 1 0 1 5 4 3
Malacca 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
Penang 2 1 0 1 3 4 3
K. L 1 0 0 1 0 1 0