El Loco relives the FA Cup final between Johor Darul Takzim and Kelantan, in what was supposed to be an epic clash, but turned out to be a poor showing by the Southern Tigers
Johor Darul Takzim turned out to be a big disappointment at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday as Kelantan retained the FA Cup in front of 85,000 fans in an electrifying atmosphere.
The Southern Tigers were expected to produce a stiffer fight to Kelantan to make the final even more exciting.
But sadly, this did not materialize as the East Coast giants won 1-0 with the winner scored by Norfarhan Muhammad in the 15th minute.
The superior Red Warriors could have easily killed off the game in the first half itself - if they had taken their chances well. In-form Darul Takzim goalkeeper Al-Hafiz Hamzah was no doubt a stumbling block.
Yes... I’m sorry to say that it could have been 3-0 or even 4-0 by half-time for Bojan Hodak's men, who created chance after chance.
It was that bad.
Kelantan moved well as a unit via skipper Badhri Radzi playing an influential role. He was later rightfully named as ‘Man-of-the-Tournament’.
Darul Takzim were moving aimlessly as they struggled to execute even simple passes. The midfield was malfunctioning so much so the strikers were starved of the ball.
The writing was already on the wall, though, for Darul Takzim when the starting-11 was announced.
Strangely, Head Coach Fandi Ahmad left out Argentine striker Leonel Nunez who had been the influential figure for Darul Takzim' success of making the final.
The Singapore legend fielded Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee Sali up front with Nunez watching from the bench.
It’s hard to tell what was on Nunez's mind then as he witnessed his teammates struggle on the pitch in the first 17 minutes until he replaced Safee, who was apparently injured.
Many Darul Takzim fans and the neutrals expected all three attackers to star upfront as they have proven to be effective in earlier matches.
In those matches, one of them would be playing a deeper role to support the two in front.
Their presence alone would have worried Kelantan.
And it was also strange to see the over-hyped Safiq Rahim start in midfield. Like it or not, he has been a flop with Darul Takzim since joining from Selangor.
He may be an international or even the national skipper but he again failed miserably on Saturday.
What was he thinking? What was he doing? He did not execute passes to assist Safee and Norshahrul but instead, he kept falling down and often lost possession of the ball.
Kelantan got the winner when Safiq lost the ball, wasn't it?
Fandi might have his reasons for fielding Safiq in a big match like this but there are a lot of questions left unanswered.
Darul Takzim did perform better offensively after the break when Safiq was replaced by Ahmed Ezrie Shafizie.
Ezrie, at least, showed aggressiveness as he tried to help the team to get the equaliser. He did not fall easily, for instance.
All is not lost for the Johor side though. They still have the Malaysia Cup campaign to look forward to.
On top of that, Darul Takzim still have a slim chance of winning the Super League even though LionsXII are poised to win it.
The good factor for the Southern Tigers is that their fans did not desert them even in defeat.
Thousands of them were still at the massive stadium after the match to give support despite the poor show and failure to win the cup.
Fans of some other teams would have stormed off in frustration or even in disgust.
These fans obviously hope Darul Takzim would make an appearance in another final - the Malaysia Cup.
Nonetheless, congratulations are in order for Kelantan. They deserved to win and return to Kota Bharu with the cup, for the second season running.