Serdang (17 December, 2016): Kuala Lumpur Thunder have one hand on the title after striking down Terengganu Turtles to win in straight sets in the first semi-finals of the Ekspres Perdana Sepak Takraw League (STL) 2016 at the Serdang Jaya Municipal Council Stadium, today.
It was only a week ago when Thunder took down Turtles in their second round encounter in the league to hand them their third consecutive defeat of the season after Penang Black Panthers ended the Turtles’ 11-match unbeaten streak.
The almost 2,400 crowd of whom were mostly the Turtles’ fans were caught by surprised especially who before the match lighted up the atmosphere in the stadium with the traditional “Mexican wave”.
Thunder lined-up with their strongest squad as Hafiz Rahman (striker) led the attack for the Thunders after recovering from an ankle injury sustained during the last match of the season against Melaka Titans.
Hafiz had the help of Farid Aziz (tekong) and skipper, Amirul Zazwan Amir (feeder) as they overcame the Turtles trio Zulkifli Razak (tekong), Azwan Muhrim (feeder) and Fadzli Roslan (striker) in the first set to win 21-14. Thunder showed their dominance early on in the match by storming to a 4-0 lead after a controversial moment only two minutes into the game when Thunder coach, Azhar Sarabini requested for a video referral to challenge the referee’s decision.
Thunder never let their guard down during the match as they lead throughout the first set, frustrating the Turtles’ who had to constantly chase the game due to a couple of service errors by Zulkifli Razak.
The second set began the same way as it forced Turtles Thai international coach, Vitaya Boonta into a substitution bringing on Izurin Refin in place of Zulkifli. However, Thunder who suffered a scare halfway through the match after seeing Hafiz clutch his knees in pain breathed a huge sigh of relief as he came back to help his team storm to a 16-11 lead.
Hafiz however grew tired late into the game and hence made way for Zamree Dahan who marshalled the team to victory to repeat the first set score line as they ensure they book their place in the finals.
Panthers booked a clash with Thunder in the finals after overcoming ATM Guardians 2-1 in the second semi-final.
Syahir Rosdi (tekong), Zaim Razali (feeder) and Azlan Alias (striker) got off to a great start in the match to win the first set 21-16, much to the delight of the Penang fans who occupied 3 buses to travel all the way to Serdang to witness their team in action.
However, the Penangites grew frustrated in the second set when they saw their team trail the Guardians by a minimum 7 point gap before eventually going down 15-21 to take the match into the tie-breaker.
The tie-breaker saw Guardians trio Nazmi Najib (tekong) then replaced by Hasman Che Hamid, Norfaizzul Razak (feeder) and Afiffudin Razali (striker) guilty of committing a few unforced errors. These unforced errors came back to haunt the Guardians as they trail the Panthers before bowing out 21-12.
Guardians will have a chance of salvaging their pride as last season’s defending champions when they take on suffering Turtles in the 3rd – 4th play-off match tomorrow. The grand finale between Kuala Lumpur Thunder and Penang Black Panthers will take place tomorrow at 9.30pm at the Serdang Jaya Municipal Council Stadium, with the champion walking away with the prize money of RM40, 000 while the runner-up take home the prize money of RM20, 000.
Fans will also be able to witness the newly introduced award, The STL Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Final 2016 being presented to the Man-of-the Match of the grand finale.
Saturday (17 December 2016):
Legend’s Cup Semi-Finals:
PDRM C bt ISTC A (22-20, 21-15)
Kerinchi Club bt ISTC B (21-13, 17-21, 21-12)
STL Division 1 Semi-finals:
Perak Bos Gaurus bt Selangor (21-9, 21-13)
PSM A bt PDRM (13-21, 21-18, 25-23)
Ekspres Perdana Sepak Takraw League (STL) Semi-finals:
Kuala Lumpur Thunder bt Terengganu Turtles (21-14, 21-14)
Penang Black Panthers bt ATM Guardians (21-16, 15-21, 21-12)
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES FIXTURES
Sunday (18 December 2016):
Legends Championship Game:
PDRM C v Kerinchi Club (12pm)
STL Division 1 3rd / 4th play-off:
Selangor v PDRM (4pm)
Ekspres Perdana Sepak Takraw League (STL) 3rd / 4th play-off:
Terengganu Turtles v ATM Guardians (5.30pm)
STL Division 1 Championship Game:
Perak Bos Gaurus v PSM A (8pm)
Ekspres Perdana Sepak Takraw League (STL) Championship Game:
Penang Black Panthers v Kuala Lumpur Thunder (9.30pm).
* Serdang Jaya Municipal Council Stadium, Selangor