Kuala Lumpur (12 December 2015): Armed Forces and Black Panthers advanced to tomorrow’s final of SepakTakraw League Malaysia 2015 at Sports Arena Sentosa in Petaling Jaya.
The soldiers defeated Kuala Lumpur City Flyers 2-1 while Penang’s Black Panthers triumphed 2-1 over Kelantan’s Gomo Warriors in the semi-finals watched by an estimated 1,500 fans here today.
Armed Forces won the first point in an evenly-contested tie against City Flyers. The first regu of Tunku Azwari Tunku, Khairudin Adenan and Faizzul Abdul Razak edged City Flyers’ trio of Farid Aziz, Muqlis Borhan and Hafiz Rahman 25-24, 20-22 and 21-15.
Hafiz, a pivotal striker in the side, was also successful in 46 out of 49 spikes, four blocks and assisted in eight saves.
City Flyers, however, produced a scintillating performance through their second regu to level the score. Coach Azhar Sarbini replaced Aizat Nor Azmi with veteran K. Saravanan who represented the national team from 1999 to 2010. The move proved to be a masterstroke as Saravanan inspired teammates Azlan Alias and Amirul Zazwan Amir to a 15-21, 21-18 and 21-19 victory over Nazmi Mohd Najib, Muhaimi Che Bongsu and Shakirin Nasir.
In the third and deciding match, it was Armed Forces who slowly burrowed their way back into the game to halt City Flyers rise. Asrie Isa, Nazuha Nadzli and Zulfikar Mat Amin defeated City Flyers’ combination of Ezzat Mohamad Zaki, Syafiq Rahman and Amirul Azhar 21-23, 24-22 and 21-16 to set-up a showdown with Panthers in the final for a shot at RM40, 000 winner’s purse.
For Armed Forces, it was a reverse situation today as they exacted revenge over their defeat to City Flyers in the group stage which had condemned them to finishing third in the league behind eventual champions City Flyers.
Armed Forces head coach, Rashidi Nordin, acknowledged there was an element of luck in his side’s victory over City Flyers.
“On paper, both teams are equally strong with a 50-50 chance of winning. So it took a little element of luck here to push us over the finishing line,” said Rashidi. “My players gave their all. It was their aggression and tenacity that won us the points and eventually the game.”
Penang outfit Black Panthers went 1-0 up through the first regu trio of Muhammad Fazil, Muhammad Anuar and Muhammad Fadzil as they strolled to a 21-19, 17-21 and 21-16 victory over Gomo Warriors’ Mohammad Hisyam, Nur Yuslie and Mohamed Saufi.
With both sides parading national players in Idham Sulaiman, Farhan Adam and Afifuddin Razali for Gomo Warriors and Syahir Rosdi, Zaim Razali and Khairol Zaman for Panthers in the second regu, it was a touch and go affair until the end but Gomo emerged winners 16-21, 21-12 and 21-19 to force the game into a decider.
In the ensuing battle, Black Panthers third regu trio of Noor Azman, Muhammad Anas and Suhari Sulaiman clawed Gomo’s Khairol Hisyam, Wan Naim and Aidil Aiman 21-7 in the first set and 21-18 in a nail-biting second to move into the final.
Armed Forces bt City Flyers (2-1)
AF ‘A’ bt CF ‘A’ (25-24, 20-22, 21-15)
AF ‘B’ lost to CF ‘B’ (21-15, 18-21, 19-21)
AF ‘C’ bt CF ‘C’ (21-23, 24-22, 21-16)
Black Panthers bt Gomo Warrios (2-1)
BP ‘A’ bt GW ‘A’ (21-19, 17-21, 21-16)
BP ‘B’ lost to GW ‘B’ (21-16, 12-21, 19-21)
BP ‘C’ bt GW ‘C’ (21-7, 21-18)
3rd-4th placing: City Flyers vs Gomo Warriors (11am)
Final: Armed Forces vs Black Panthers (4pm)
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