BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
Rampant Felda United FC arrived at the City Stadium on a run of five straight wins, scoring 16 goals in the process. Meanwhile, PBAPP FC themselves were in a buoyant mood, with their first victory of the season last Friday coinciding with their hiring of three new foreign players, as well as former national player Rosdi Talib.
Predictably, Felda started the brighter. Captain Indra Putra Mahayuddin had a shot deflected over in the 7th minute, while another clever one-two between him and Edward Wilson was cleared by Alexander Becerra.
Wilson didn’t take long to make his mark. Becerra was yellow-carded for a handball in the box, and the Premier League’s top-scorer made no mistake from the spot, driving a powerful shot into the roof of the net to put Felda United ahead in the 15th minute.
Becerra almost made amends eight minutes later, but his header from Faizal Mansor’s free-kick lacked enough power to trouble Farizal Harun in Felda’s goal.
Despite losing Wilson to injury on the half-hour mark, Felda were monopolizing the ball, but PBAPP goalkeeper Ismail Abdul Rahman was untested as the Settlers failed to turn their possession into shots.
PBAPP countered by sending cross-field balls to their skillful-but-diminutive winger Mohd Faiz Nasir, but Felda negated his influence by double-teaming him down the wing.
The Settlers held on to their slender lead at half-time.
Just two minutes of the second half passed before Ndumba Makeche (who had replaced Wilson) beat Becerra for pace in the box, but ballooned his shot over the bar.
Makeche was looking lively, and retrieved what looked to be an over-hit ball near the goal-line. In the blink of an eye, the Australian striker dribbled past a covering defender and curled the ball past Ismail into the bottom corner to double Felda’s lead.
Felda were in the ascendancy now, and with Shahrulnizam Mustapa pulling the strings in midfield, Ismail was a busy man, pushing away multiple shots by Makeche and Indra Putra as PBAPP’s forward surges left space at the back.
However, PBAPP’s persistence soon paid off. In the 73rd minute, Farizal came off his line to punch away a cross, only to see it land at the feet of Mohd Faiz. The youngster showed remarkable composure as he controlled the ball, looked up, and placed his shot in the middle of the goal, with the goalkeeper off his line. 2-1!
Rattled, Felda continued to control possession, and only an important interception by Becerra prevented what would have been an easy goal for an unmarked Makeche.
Farizal had to be alert to tip a stinging long-range drive by Mohd Faiz over the bar, before pushing away a direct header by Rosdi in added-time. Felda substitute Abdul Latiff Suhaimi had a great chance to put the game to bed but somehow blazed his shot over the bar from close-range.
Felda United’s 2-1 victory extends their winning run to six games, but PBAPP can draw many positives from their solid performance tonight.