Kelantan 3-1 Ayeyawady United: Red Warriors progress to next round of AFC Cup in style
Kelantan left nothing to chance as they beat the Myanmar champions at home to seal qualification to the next stage of the AFC Cup
By Zulhilmi Zainal
One of the final two matches of Group G of the 2013 AFC Cup saw last year’s Malaysia Super League champions go against Ayeyawady United of Myanmar at the Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium earlier. Kelantan had already secured qualification, but they went into this match with the intention of finishing first in the group, especially when Ayeyawady had no chance of improving their position regardless of the eventual result of the match. They made their intention apparent by fielding most of their first team players such as Badhri Radzi and Dimitrios Petratos, although Dickson Nwakaeme was not eligible due to an injury.
Despite going in with all guns blazing, no convincing chances were created by both teams in the first 20 minutes. Only in the 20th minute did Kelantan threaten the visitors’ goalmouth through a stinging Petratos snapshot from outside the box, but that shot flew wide instead. In the 24th minute Lek Kcira did well to rise above the Ayeyawady defence to nod a curling cross home, but he could only direct his header straight into the arms of Ayeyawady goalkeeper, Aung Min Khant instead.
Kelantan piled on more pressure on their opponents’ defence, and again came close to opening their account in the 29th minute. Petratos released Nor Farhan at the edge of the penalty box, but Nor Farhan’s subsequent low drive swung beyond the wrong side of the goalpost.
Ten minutes from the end of the first half, it was Haris Safwan’s turn to almost get the first goal. He leapt the highest right in front the goal to connect with a cross from the left. The goalkeeper was rooted to the spot, but the ball hit the crossbar instead, to the fans’ frustration.
In the end, it took a bizarre circumstance for the Red Warriors to get their first goal in the 42nd minute. A freekick about to be taken by Petratos at the right edge of the Ayeyawady box required Ayeyawady defender Kyaw Zayar to mark Obinna Nwaneri very closely. While jostling for position with Nwaneri in front of his goal, he accidentally deflected the incoming free kick into his own goal with his hand instead, to gift the home side the lead. Perhaps he should be thankful that Nwaneri was more than happy to claim the goal as his own, as evident in his subsequent celebration.
When the second half began, Kelantan intensified their attack. Petratos was still looking for his first goal of the match, and tried in the 54th minute with a shot from 20 metres out. But his shot went straight at the keeper instead. Four minutes later, he attempted again with a similar try, but once again he was to be denied by Min Khant.
Finally in the 69th minute Kelantan found a goal from what seemed to be their favourite method of the night, rocketing the ball from outside of the box. However it wasn’t by Petratos. Kelantan defender Nik Shahrul did well to dribble to the right edge of the Ayewady box, before unleashing a looping shot with his left foot that eluded the grasp of Min Khant to sail into the back of the net, to double Kelantan’s lead.
But as they were wrapped up in their search for more goals, a muted Ayeyawady found a goal out of nowhere 10 minutes from regulation time. Ayeyawady’s number 17 Nay Lin Tun connected with a rare Ayewady corner kick with a header that sent the ball bouncing off the ground and into the roof of the goal, to close the deficit for the visitors.
But all hopes for a spirited comeback for Ayeyawady was quickly quelled by Kelantan’s own captain Badhri straight from a corner kick just three minutes later. Perhaps frustrated by his teammates’ numerous misses in the match and wanting to lead by example, he sent a corner kick that went high over the goalkeeper before dipping into the far top corner of the goal, to restore their two-goal lead.
The Red Warriors kept on attacking in the final minutes of the game, and thankfully they defended better this time. The match ended 3-1 to Kelantan and they advanced to the second round of the AFC Cup from the top spot of Group G.
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