BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Perak Stadium played hosts to Kedah as both teams kicked off their campaign for the 2014 Malaysia Cup. The game was played on a slick pitch as there heavy downpour earlier in the day, which lead to a sparse crowd for this opening match of Group B.
The match started with a series of free kicks in favour of Kedah but Baddrol Bakhtiar’s delivery into the box were much too close to Rafi Effendi to cause any trouble to Perak. It didn’t take long for Perak to make Kedah pay as the Bos Gaurus took the lead in the 10th minute.
Namkung Woong was caught in possession around the halfway line and Perak launched into a quick counter attack, started by Idris Ahmad’s quick through pass to Abdulafees Abdulsalam. The Nigerian’s reverse pass found the feet of Milan Purovic, whose low shot went in under the despairing dive of Abdul Hadi in Kedah’s goal.
The home side were threatening through their wide players in Ridzuan Azly and Hafiz Ramdan with the close dribbling on the flanks. In the space of 6 minutes from the 30th minute, Perak had two good free kicks at the edge of Kedah’s penalty box but neither Abdulafees nor Marco Tulio could find their range from the set piece.
After playing a part in the opening goal, it was ironic that Idris’ poor judgement in trying to dribble out of defence that enabled the Canaries to find the equaliser in the 44th minute. Syamin Alif was quick to snap onto the loose ball to drive into the penalty box. His low cross into the box was perfect for Billy Mehmet to flick over the advancing Rafi.
Despite the disappointment of conceding so late into the first half, Perak still managed to fashion another clear cut opportunity when Hafiz again got down the left hand side to deliver a pinpoint cross that found Abdulafees. However, to the horror of the home fans, the Nigerian somehow managed to head the ball over the bar when it was easier to find the target.
The away side were the first to threaten in the second half as in the 50th minute, Syazwan Zainon drove in from the left hand side but his shot was just wide of the post. That chance seemed to spur Perak on more as the lead was restored just 2 minutes later. Purovic brilliantly turned away from his marker on the right hand side and saw the run of Hafiz from the left hand side. The young left winger planted a forceful drive beyond the palm of Abdul Hadi to put Perak ahead at 2-1.
Abdulafees continued to be presented with chances to score but just like the first half, spurned his opportunities to add to Perak’s lead. His wastefulness almost came back to haunt him when in the 71st minute, Kedah almost found their 2nd equaliser when Rafi spilled a simple catch that the away side just didn’t capitalised.
The best effort that Tan Cheng Hoe’s fledging side could produce was a Baddrol shot that hit the bar in the 75th minute. That came after Perak failed to clear a simple cross with Hisyamuddin’s poor clearance, chief of those careless defending. From the ensuing melee inside the box, substitute Syazwan Tong seemed to have done a high kick that gone unnoticed by the referee.
In a comical fashion, Kedah tried to present a 3rd goal to Perak when Abdul Hadi dilly dallied on the ball and was robbed by Purovic. Purovic’s chip was on target but Khairul Helmi was on the right spot to clear. However, the Kedah captain misjudged his header and almost sent in into his own goal only for his fellow defender to bail him out.
In the end, Perak hung on to register a vital home win against the Premier League side. Plenty of encouragement could be taken from the numerous chances which they managed to create. As for Kedah, they have shown that they could live with the bigger boys and may yet have a say on the destiny of the two qualifiers out of this Group B.