Winger Tatsuro Inui successfully converted from the penalty spot to hand SAFFC a narrow victory over Gombak United, who were thwarted by the heroics of Shahril Jantan throughout.
|By Khalis Rifhan
Tatsuro Inui’s goal from the spot may have given SAFFC a slender lead going into the second leg, but all eyes were on former national custodian Shahril Jantan as he single-handedly denied Gombak United a goal in the game.
The home side started strongly, as they laid siege to Gombak's goal from the first whistle.
Zulfadli Zainal’s speculative effort from forty yards would have been a contender for goal of the season, had it not been brilliantly tipped over the bar by Bulls custodian Zaiful Nizam.
Gombak were let off the hook again a minute later, as centreback Walid Lounis cleared Inui's header off the line after a well-crafted attack down the flank by the home side.
Although SAFFC were having the lion's share of possession, they were caught napping at the back when Ahmad Suhaimi beat the offside trap and put himself through on goal.
However, the young striker seemed surprised to find himself in such a good position and hesistated on the ball, allowing Marin Vidosevic to recover and make the challenge.
The Warriors bench heaved a sigh of relief midway through the half, as the ball trickled inches away from goal after a freekick from Obadin Aikhena had deflected off Noh Rahman.
The game came to life in the 35th minute when referee K.Kalimuthu awarded a penalty to the Warriors after Gombak defender Nurullah Hussein had handled the ball in the area.
Inui made no mistake from the spot to send the goalkeeper the wrong way and give the hosts a half-time lead.
From then on, it was the Shahril Jantan show, as the SAFFC goalkeeper came to his side's rescue time repeatedly to preserve their slender advantage.
Played through on goal by Hafiz Rahim, Gombak winger Mustaqim Manzur unleashed an effort which was well palmed away by Shahril.
The goalkeeper then showed quick reflexes to deny substitute Jung Hee Bong, who had got his head to a freekick from Mustaqim.
Mustaqim was denied again when his freekick was brilliantly pushed away by Shahril, whose outstanding saves ensured the Warriors hung on to win the game.
The two sides will meet again in the second leg of the semi-final this Saturday, October 6 at the Jurong West Stadium.