Selangors AFC Cup campaign looks in tatters after three matches as they fall to a limp 2-1 defeat at Sai Gon Xuan Thanh
The pre-match rumors that Selangor coach Irfan Bakti might 'reduce interest in their AFC Cup challenge to concentrate on the domestic competitions' seemed to have been confirmed when the team sheet revealed that star performers Mahali Jasuli, K. Gurusamy and S. Kunanlan were only on the bench in a must win game.
In truth, this game looked anything but must win for Selangor as they sleep walked their way through the first half, dominated by the more positive Sai Gon side who bossed the middle of the midfield through the impressive Trong Phi Nguyen and Duc Linh Nguyen. Selangor rarely threatened going forward and Liberian forward Francis Forkey Doe was left isolated for the entire half without proper midfield support.
Despite their lackluster display, the Red Giants looked to be going into the half level, however in first half stoppage time the deadlock was broken by a stunning strike. There seemed to be little danger when Nigerian born striker Emeka Ndubuisi Oguwike picked the ball up from over 30 yards out, but with Asraruddin Omar giving him time and space he belted a shot which arrowed into Norazlan Razali's top corner giving the keeper no chance.
Selangor began the second half in a more positive fashion with much of the play occurring in the oppositions half. Their best chance of a response was always going to come through Forkey Doe and he was aggrieved not to have a penalty with five minutes of the second period gone after he went down following a clumsy challenge by Le Hai Anh.
Doe went close again in the 56th minute as he turned sharply on the edge of the area, his shot had venom but no accuracy as it flew over the bar. But less than 10 minutes later the Liberian got the goal that he had been threatening, and which Selangor deserved following an improved second half showing.
The creator was Asraruddin who made up for his part in Sai Gon's goal with a lung-busting run up the left wing and an inch-perfect low cross to Forkey Doe who took a brilliant first touch to beat Anh, before sending the ball calmly into the bottom corner.
Selangor's joy would turn to despair less than a minute later as they again fell behind, this time thanks to some comical defending. Under pressure from Oguwike, Peter Chrappan inexplicably allowed a long ball upfield to bounce, and then Nasriq Baharom and Razali crashed into each other allowing the forward with the simple task of slotting home. That both defenders and the goalkeeper all ended up on the floor following this goal tells you all you need to know about the amateur defending on display.
The goal was a sucker punch for Selangor and took all the wind out of their sails as the home team again began to boss possession and create chances. In the 71st minute Cuong Doan should have done better with a free header from a corner kick, and a minute later Oguwike almost got his hatrick after he again outmuscled Nasriq and hit a low shot on goal which Razali pushed behind.
In an attempt to regain some momentum Selangor threw on their talisman Mahali Jasuli for the final 15 minutes as they committed more men forward to find a way back into the game. With ten minutes remaining there was a rare counter attack in which Selangor outnumbered their opposition, however Amri Yahyah's heavy pass, which was intended for Solihin, killed the promising move stone dead and was recovered by keeper Tan Truong Bui.
If any team looked the likelier to score against was the home team. With less than 10 minutes remaining Duc Linh had a great chance to seal the game when he was played into space on the left of the area, he turned Shukor Jusoh and committed Razali but his shot came back of the outside of the far post.
The unsavory time wasting tactics being employed by Sai Gon in the latter stages were frankly unnecessary as they looked unlikely to relinquish their lead. With less than a minute remaining of the 90, Trong Phi played a great through ball to Duc Linh, but Razali again spread himself well to keep out his effort and the follow up also.
In the final minute of the five additional minutes Yahyah was given the ball in the area by Doe, but his low shot was saved well by Tan Truong Bui, condemning the Red Giants to defeat and almost certain elimination from this competition at the group stage.