HAFIZ Zalani turned hero for Terengganu by scoring the winner with the final kick of the game in a 1-0 win over Kelantan to retain the Under-18 Malaysian Schools Football Championship title at the KLFA Stadium yesterday.
The final nearly descended into a sleepy affair with extra-time looming until Terengganu earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty box deep into stoppage time.
Up stepped Hafiz to drill in a low effort which Kelantan goalkeeper Ahmad Syihan Hazmi Mohamed should have stopped but allowed to it trickle into goal.
Kelantan had no time to respond as referee Naser Said blew the final whistle almost immediately with Terengganu players breaking into celebrations.
Earlier, chances were few and far between in the first half as the teams struggle to adapt to the bumpy ground which had sand added prior to kick-off to smoothen the surface.
With ball control a real problem, especially in the middle, teams often pumped hopeful balls straight into the opponent's penalty area for their strikers to chance to little success.
The best chance of the half fell to Terengganu's Imran Hakimie Jamaludin in the 19th minute when he was clear on goal after a poor goal-kick by Ahmad Syihan but dithered too long to allow a Kelantan defender to foil the chance.
Kelantan had more of the ball in the second half with Akmal Farhan Mohd Noor ballooning one over in the 53rd minute. Terengganu's Azalinullah Alias tested his luck from distance in the 72nd minute before Hafiz's late heroics settled the issue.
RESULTS - Under-18 final: Terengganu 1 Kelantan 0; 3rd-4th: Penang 3 Malacca 0.
Under-15 final: Selangor 1 Malacca 1 (aet, Selangor won 4-2 on penalties); 3rd-4th: Penang 4 Kedah 0;
Under-12 final: Terengganu 1 Sabah 0; 3rd-4th: Selangor 1 Penang 0.