BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The decision to include 'non-league' sides in the Malaysian FA Cup beginning this season already produced an upset, when one of them stunned their more-fancied M-League opponents on Tuesday.
Klang-based Southern FC stunned FAM Cup side Selangor United 2-1 in their round one tie, which was held late Tuesday afternoon at the Kajang Prison ground with United as the hosts. United drew first blood in the 40th minute with skipper Yusaini Hafiz Chee Saad scoring from the spot, but Southern came from behind in the second half, through a brace by star player Sharul Afif Shaharuddin, in the 58th and 68th minute.
The two sides produced contrasting gameplays at first. The hosts, led by head coach Abdul Talib Sulaiman utilised direct football played down the wings, while Gan Chee Lim's men kept organised possession in the middle of the park.
Despite playing as the underdogs, Southern managed to keep their opponents' tries out and pressed into the final third, although they rode their luck at times with their defending.
Playing under the blazing sun, referee Ghafar Zabri called for a hydration break twice in the first half. The two stoppages seemed to kill the visitors' momentum, and led to them conceding the first goal of the match.
Five minutes from the break, defender Firdaus Selvam let the ball bounce onto his arm in the danger area although he was under minimal pressure. The ref pointed straight to the spot, and former Harimau Muda player Yusaini put it away effortlessly.
In the second half, the visitors utilised more counter attacks in their gameplay, and it worked.
Wong Kah Heng broke down the right in the 58th minute, approached the United box and drew the defenders towards him. With Sharul now left unmarked in the box, Wong sent a short cross towards his teammate, and Sharul did not miss with his header from five meters out.
10 minutes later, they snatched the lead from an almost similar situation, and this time it was skipper Saiful Aulia Ahmad with the delivery from the right. United goalkeeper Syazwan Abdullah got a finger to the low cross, but the ball only rebounded towards Sharul in the box, who sent the ball into the back of the net.
Afterwards the visitors, who last year competed in the Selangor Champions League, made their midfield compact, simply ran the clock down and held on for the shock win.