Robert Alberts's men continued their momentum with yet another morale boosting victory in the East Coast of Malaysia
BY KEESHAANAN SUNDARESAN Follow on Twitter
Most of the pre-match build up was spent talking about how it was going to be incredibly important for Kelantan to bounce back with a win on home soil. And the intention was there at the beginning, with Ghaddar and Forkey Doe showing good combination on the offensive department, only for the Lebanese's shot to go wide on the 6th minute mark.
But Sarawak themselves kept it tight at the back. Ronny Harun led his defence impeccably in the absence of Gabor Gyepes, and they looked hard to break down. The solidity was so visible that Kelantan started pumping men forward, with hopes of finding a loophole to exploit.
On the 18th minute mark, Wan Zaharulnizam fired a powerful shot, that went straight into the hands of Sani. Five minutes later, Ghaddar wasted a good chance by shooting off target.
And like every other side that plays a very deep defensive line, Sarawak too were depending on counter attacks to really threaten the home side; something that they eventually did on the 29th minute mark. Ronny Harun found space to unleash a shot, but fortunately for Kelantan, it was wide off the post.
The game had so much of promise, but just seemed to lack proper execution on the final third. And this applied to both sides. That would precisely explain as to why the match was really kicked into life after the break; so much so that the deadlock was broken within 6 minutes of the second half.
Ryan Griffiths crafted a chip over Khairul Fahmi, putting Sarawak in front at Kota Bharu. For a player that only recently joined the Crocs, Griffiths' goal represented his speedy assmilation into Robert Alberts' squad.
The goal did only silence the crowd, but also motivated Kelantan to a certain extent. The immediate response was to bring on Fakri in place of the ineffective Ghaddar. But the major problem for them existed in the middle of the park, where all of Kelantan's midfielders were struggling to cope with the relentless Junior Eldstal.
On the 64th minute mark, Sarawak could have doubled their lead but Griffiths' shot was tipped away by Khairul Fahmi. Just three minutes later, Forkey Doe tried his luck though his misguided attempt always looked destined for the side netting.
As the match edged closer towards a conclusion, Kelantan started pushing upfront in numbers. As a result, they did carve out several chances in succession; only for names like Piya and Wan Zaharulnizam to disappoint with the final product.
And at the end of the day, Sarawak held on to secure an immense win that doesn't only take them to fourth on the league table, but also further strengthen the momentum they have building in recent weeks. As for Kelantan, the defeat exposed even more issues within their squad; all of which needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.