Sapura took a slim lead in the first leg of the quarterfinal match against UniKL in the TNB Cup while Sunday 2030 romped to an effortless win over SSTMI for the President's Cup at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Sapura edged UniKL 3-2 in an exciting tie that saw the MHL's top scorers, Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim of UniKL and Khasif Ali of Sapura continue their neck to neck battle as both scored a brace to take their tally to 15.
But Sapura could well end up rueing the slim win as they had chances to kill off the tie, especially after taking a 2-0 lead but failed to capitalise, allowing uniKL to finish stronger tonight.
"We had the game within our grasp but did not finish it off and that is a reason to be concerned. UniKL played well and took their chances well but we will be better prepared in the return leg," said Sapura coach Tai Beng Hai.
Sapura took an early lead as Khasif Ali relayed his penalty corner attempt to Muhammad Zubair, catching the entire UniKL defence flatfooted as the deflection sailed into goal in the 4th minute.
UniKL were awarded penalty corners in the 20th and 24th minutes, but the normally reliable Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim could not find a way past Sapura keeper Mohd Hairi Abdul Rahman.
UniKL were denied a clear penalty stroke by umpire P. Puvalagan in the 26th minute when the attempt by Faeez clealy hit the defender on the foot. That somewhat affected the composure of the UniKL side as they went on to concede a second goal, this time Khasif sending a low flick through the pads of UniKL keeper Shahrul Azaddin Auskarzie in the 34th minute.
At halftime Sapura led 2-0.
Faeez pulled a goal back in the 50th minute from a penalty corner but Khasif put his team ahead nine minutes later. Just when Sapura thought they held a healthy lead for the second leg, Faeez struck again five minutes from time for a crucial goal that kept the tie very much alive.
"We were dominant in the first ahlf but could not put our chances away. It was a good fightback and the players believed in themselves to keep this tie alive. There is everything to play for on Friday and we intend to tighten up in defence and take them to the distance," said UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj.
"We just gave them too much space in the first half and need to take the cahnces we create. Our penalty corners is one area we will work on over the next 48 hours as its clear open chances will be far a few in a match like this."
Meanwhile in the President's Cup quarterfinal Sunday 2030 defeated Sekolah Sukan Tengku Mahkota Ismail 5-2 to hold a commendable lead going in Friday's second leg.
Sunday 2030 went ahead in the 2nd minute through Craig Joseph Fernandez but SSTMI were soon level through the efforts of Zulaniq Adib Abdul Razak in the 15th minute.
Sunday 2030 then raced to a 4-1 lead with goals from Kavalpreet Singh (17th minute), G. Sasitheran ( 48th minute) and P. Prabhakaran ( 52nd minute). Although SSTMI pulled a goal back through Muhammad Firdaus Musa ( 61st minute), Sunday 2030 put the issue beyond doubt in the 65th minute Prabhakaran.