BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
On Saturday, Felda United produced a stirring second half performance to comeback from a goal down against Kedah as both sides share the spoils after 90 minutes. Amidst the rain at Tun Abdul Razak Stadium in Jengka, Hadin Azman's equaliser was enough to peg back Kedah, who had gone ahead through Ken Ilso's first half goal.
Goal reviews back the match from a tactical standpoint to see where the battles were won and lost in the 1-1 draw between Felda and Kedah.
Azmi Mohamed went for a more conventional 4-4-2 with Gaston Cellerino partnering Norshahrul Idlan up front and supported by the cast of Zah Rahan, Hadin Azman and Fazrul Hazli. Midfielder Stuart Wark was used as a direct defensive midfielder and was tasked to just sit in front of the defence.
As for Tan Cheng Hoe, he deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation with the trio of Fakri Saraani, Sandro da Silva and Baddrol Bakhtiar supporting the lone front man in Ken Ilso. Akram Mahinan is the nominal defensive midfielder with Ifwat Akmal restored to the goalkeeping position.
The Initial Game Plan
Felda wanted to utilise the presence of 6' 1" forward Cellerino at every opportunity with early crosses being pumped in, particularly from the right hand side with Amirul and Fazrul taking turns delivering crosses. Neither player drove to the byline before crossing and as such, despite winning many of the headers Cellerion struggled to cause much impact with his heading as he had to take the ball from positions far away from the goal.
Zah Rahan was given the license to dribble but he was more often than not tracked by the impressive Akram. Norshahrul stayed mostly central but wasn't allowed to express himself what with constant passes bypassing him with the crosses to Cellerino.
Kedah used a more compact formation not designed to exploit the flank area and most of their build-up play comes from the centre. Using the triangle of Sandro, Liridon and one of Baddrol or Fakri at different areas of the pitch, they worked their way through Felda lines with speed of one-touch passing.The lack of pressing from the home side allowed the trio or quartet to dominate the midfield, especially in the first half.
Good tracking from Fazrul and Hadin meant that neither Fitri Omar nor Rizal Ghazali got much joy from overlapping. This also impacted Ilso who had no service from wide areas and often times had drop deep to get involved with the play.
The Wandering Shukor
This was probably the worst Shukor Adan performance of late. The captain and most experienced player in the Felda side was a letdown for his team mates with his constant wandering and pushing up from his position. In the first half alone, there was three such occasions but thankfully for Felda, Kedah's profligacy in front of goal meant that they only capitalise on one such occasion.
Shukor inexplicably got out of position to try and win possession towards the left hand side when he should have called out for his defensive partner in Moontaz Junaidi to cover and this led to Ilso ghosting into the space behind him to receive the pass from Krasniqi to score in the 24th minute of the match.
After that in the same half, Shukor somehow drifted to the far right when Kedah only had a throw in which subsequently led to Baddrol's diving header wonderfully palmed away by Farizal Harun. In the 33rd minute, Shukor again pushed forward to try to intercept the ball and wasn't punished when Fakri shanked his shot high over the bar from another good Krasniqi pass.
With his depreciating age, Shukor should play as the covering defender instead of the more aggresive one as his pace is no longer what it once was.
The half time change that worked
Throughout the first half, Hadin was more of a spectator because Felda's moves were generally going down the right hand side. However, there was a switch in the second half to overload on the left hand side and it was this change that got the home side their point from the match.
Hadin was repeatedly being fed with passes behind Rizal as the international team mates battle it out for the second up, up to the point the winger had to go off in the 71st minute because of an injury. Cellerino was also moving to the left hand side, drawing in Kedah's Zac Anderson to free up space behind him for Hadin to run onto.
It was such move in the 57th minute that saw Zah Rahan produced a sumptuous through pass to Hadin that saw Felda getting their well-deserved equaliser. Hadin had the pace to reach onto the pace, beating Rizal in a straight race before rounding Ifwat to slide the ball into an empty net.
TCH's rejig that almost worked
With the game drawing to a close, Tan played his trump card in Syazwan Zainon, bringing on the pacy winger for the fast-tiring Fakri in the 68th minute. It was a move that was designed to take advantage of Azmi taking off his right back in Amirul Afiq for Fakhrul Aiman and push another winger in Fazrul into an unaccustomed position.
The fresh Syazwan toyed and gave Fazrul the runaround which also in turn meant that Fakhrul had to drop back to help his team mate. This provided the space and width for Fitri to go on the offensive for the first time in the match and Kedah started to switch their attacking from a central path to a wider berth.
Twice Kedah produced good crosses from the left hand side that almost got them the winner. Both Fitri and Syazwan laid on good crosses for Sandro and Baddrol respectively. To their disappointment, Sandro's header hit the bar while Baddrol's second header of the night was well saved by Farizal.
Kedah shaded the match with the midfield dominance but the right change from Azmi Mohamed kept Felda in the match even though Tan Cheng Hoe's late gamble with Syazwan almost paid off. 1-1 the final result and in review, that is probably a fair result for both teams.
All match pictures via Khairulnizam/CSN