BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The so-called Selangor Derby between PKNS FC and Selangor on Matchday 3 of the Super League (MSL) last Saturday was given a miss by the match broadcaster, who went with Felda United vs Kedah and T-Team FC vs Pulau Pinang instead.
Their decision was understandable, as the venue, the Shah Alam Stadium's last-minute failure to meet the lighting requirements to hold evening matches necessitated late-afternoon kickoffs for PKNS' home matches instead, a time frame that must have been deemed unsuitable for the market by the broadcaster.
However when all five matches of the round have been played (with the Kelantan-JDT match postponed), it left a feeling of missed opportunity as the derby, which finished in a 5-3 win for the home side, turned out to be an explosive one, and is one of the best matches of the season so far, if not the best.
Luckily Goal was present at the stadium for the eventful match, and here are the talking points from the match.
Birthday boy Syahmi Safari opens the scoring in the first minute
One of the Red Giants' breakout stars this season has been Malaysia U19 captain Syahmi Safari, who along with a number of Selangor youth players have been promoted to the senior team by head coach Maniam Pachaiappan in the pre-season, in order to plug the vacancies left by their former stars who departed for other clubs due to the financial woes experienced by the 33-time Malaysia Cup champions.
Syahmi has played a prominent role down the right wing for his team in their previous two league matches, and in his third he did not need long to further impress the head coach and fans, scoring the match opener barely one minute into the match.
A low cross from the left by Veenod Subramaniam was missed by both Selangor forward Francis Doe and PKNS goalkeeper Zamir Selamat, and the ball fell to the then 18-year old at the far post. He then displayed enough composure to slot the ball in, giving his team and the away fans cause to believe that they would be defeating the Red Ants on that day.
As it turned out, the following day, Sunday would be Syahmi's 19th birthday. Not a bad way to celebrate one's birthday.
Former Selangor players hit back with a vengeance
Despite conceding early, Elavarasan Elangowan's men had other ideas. The home side then performed a comeback through two goals in the space of five minutes which were scored by Patrick Wleh and Safee Sali, in the 20th and 25 minute. Liberian striker Wleh would go on to add two more in the match, completing a hattrick.
Now if those names sound familiar, it's because they have both played for Selangor. Wleh was loaned out to the Red Giants by PKNS last season, while Safee played for them from 2006 to 2010.
To rub salt into wound, Wleh had a forgettable season for the Red Giants last season; despite having scored nine league goals, many argued that he could have scored more. Furthermore, neither had scored in their previous two matches, in which PKNS lost both matches.
Safee Sali celebrates his goal against Selangor. Photo from PKNS FC Facebook
Selangor defenders chose a poor time to have an off-day
The Selangor defence have had a relatively solid start to the season, keeping a clean sheet against Pulau Pinang in their 2-0 win and conceding only one goal against Melaka United FC in their 1-1 draw. On the back of this performance is Nigerian centre-back Ugo Ukah, whose performance against Melaka shut out most of the Mousedeers' attacks.
But against PKNS, it was the underperforming Ukah who turned up, and he had trouble shadowing his former teammate Wleh, which undeniably contributed to the latter's hattrick and the Red Ants' five goals. However this is not something new, as last season he also turned in a somewhat Jekyll-and-Hide performance for Selangor, leading from the back in the Malaysia Cup, while failing to keep their opponents from scoring in the league.
However, that is not to say that the blame was all Ukah's. The Red Giants' two other defenders; captain Razman Roslan and Rizal Fahmi Rosid also left a lot to be desired in the match, failing to protect their respective wings from the penetrative runs of PKNS wingers Nazrin Syamsul Bahri and Matias Jadue.
It seems that although Maniam has made the right call by promoting the youngsters, his decision to stick with senior players who are not wanted by other clubs in the pre-season will come back and haunt him further down the line.
PKNS' Safee Sali (right) vies for the ball against Selangor's Ugo Ukah. Photo from PKNS FC Facebook
It was a good thing for FAM and FMLLP that the match was not broadcast live
As if the eight-goal scoreline was not enough, one incident towards the end of the match further raised the temperature of the match.
In the 73rd minute, the referee Fairuzi Mat Desa showed the second yellow, and a red, to Selangor winger Raimi Noor, who seconds earlier had just come off for Adam Nor Azlin. Almost instantaneously, a fracas developed by the touchline involving the players of both teams, while the referee tried discussing with one of the linesman.
The discussion, and argument, then continued closer to the halfway line, with the match commissioner and team officials getting involved.
What had transpired was Raimi had thrown the ball at Jadue who was lying on the pitch needing treatment, just before the Selangor winger came off, an incident not seen by the referee. Jadue then told the referee about the incident, by which time Raimi has already taken his place on the Selangor bench and Adam has come on. The ref confirmed the incident with his linesman, and retroactively shown Raimi the red card, but the homeside protested that as the foul was committed while he was still active, the substitution must be rescinded and Selangor must play with 10 men, which then initiated the prolonged argument between the team officials, umpires and players.
The dispute was finally resolved and the match resumed only six minutes later, with the ref telling Raimi to leave the bench for the dressing room. He also made Adam leave the pitch as his substitution for Raimi was deemed void, reducing the away side to 10 men, and Maniam had to take off Rizal instead to bring on the youngster.
The bizarre scene should have called into question again the quality of refereeing in the country by critics and fans, had the match been shown live on television. This time however, the Malaysian FA (FAM) and league organiser Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) are saved from further embarrassments.
The next Selangor Derby must be an anticipated fixture
Despite all that happened in the pre-season between the two sides, both sets of head coaches and players had been downplaying whatever animosity there was between them, telling the media that what mattered was the action on the pitch.
If you work in the media and depend on punchy headlines to make a living, you will understand why both sides' reluctance to hype up the derby was disappointing. Which is why it was a good thing the match at the Shah Alam Stadium transpired the way it did.
Two teams with differing fanbases within the same state, eight goals scored, the homeside winning through goals scored by the losing side's former players, dubious refereeing, there's no way the two clubs can douse the fire of future Selangor Derby matches now.
Friendship ended with Norazlan, now Safee is Wleh's best friend. Photo from PKNS FC Facebook
The next time PKNS and Selangor meet in the league will only be on September 20, this time at Selangor's newly-adopted home ground the Selayang Municipal Stadium, but fans and observers should save the date from now on. And hopefully this fixture will be shown live on television, for the sake of all fans of Malaysian football.