Felda United 1 Kedah 1: Super-sub Hadin saves Fighters with late equaliser in first leg clash
Khairulnizam/CSN
Substitute Hadin Azman rescued Felda from the brink of defeat with his late equaliser, in their first leg Malaysia Cup semi-final match against Kedah.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter


Despite playing at home in the first leg match of their Malaysia Cup semi-final tie, Felda United were held to a 1-1 draw by defending champions Kedah on Sunday. Kedah opened the scoring courtesy of a 60th-minute penalty by Brazilian forward Sandro da Silva, but substitute Hadin Azman equalised with minutes remaining on the clock.

The hosts' head coach Sathianathan Bhaskaran were able to field all four of his foreign players including talismanic Brazilian ace and former Kedah loanee Thiago Fernandes. All of his local players too were available save for the injured Stuart Wark, and his place was taken over by the other mixed heritage player in the squad; Curran Ferns. Shukor Adan skippered the side, partnering up with Aussie Dino Djublic in defence, protecting Farizal Harun in between the sticks. Youngster Danial Amier Norhisham received another start in the match.

The Red Eagles head coach Nidzam Adzha Yusoff too had the use of all four of his import players, including the outgoing duo Zac Anderson and Ken Ilso Larsen. Returning Malaysia internationals Baddrol Bakhtiar, Syazwan Zainon, goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Che Kassim, Fitri Omar, Khairul Helmi Johari too started in the match.

The visitors almost went in front from two back-to-back on-target tries by Larsen in the eighth minute. Both times the home team were saved by Farizal's reflex.

Five minutes later Syazwan tried from outside, but the attempt ballooned over the crossbar. Following the attempts, Felda sat back deeper to plug the gaps in their defence.

That strategy worked, and in the 23rd minute they registered their first accurate try. Ifedayo Olusegun cut inside from the right past Fitri, before striking from inside the box. But his shot was too weak, and went straight into the arms of Ifwat.

A minute later, Baddrol missed an open header, nodding wide Liridon Krasniqi's cross from the right.

In the 29th minute Kedah captain Helmi became the first man to be booked in the game, following a rash tackle on Thiago. Just two minutes later Felda's Danial earned his team's first booking, for a late challenge on Syazwan outside the Kedah penalty box.

Later it was Krasniqi's turn to be booked, for remonstrating against the ref's decision.

With five minutes remaining before the halftime whistle, Thiago struck from outside, aiming for the far bottom corner, but his shot ended on the wrong side of the post.

Ifidayo missed a glorious chance to open the scoring minutes later. Teed up by Thiago's headed pass inside the penalty area, the Nigerian turned around before trying a short curler. Ifwat was beaten, but this time his try went wide.

Despite the myriad of chances had by both sides, the first half ended goalless.

At halftime Sathianathan swapped Danial for former Malaysia forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.

Sandro da Silva came close to finding the back of the net in the 58th minute, trying to poke in a cross from the left. Farizal got a finger to it to keep the ball out however, and Shukor was on hand to make a clearance.

At the stroke of halftime, Safwan brought down Syazwan in his penalty box, and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Sando tucked the ball in without fuss, with Farizal finally beaten for the first time in the game.

But the penalty and goal came with a cost for the Red Eagles, as in the 70th minute Syazwan had to be taken off hurt, and replaced with Syafiq Ahmad.

Ifedayo was then taken off for winger Hadin Azman with 15 minutes remaining on the clock.

But just as the match looked to be heading towards a 1-0 win for Kedah, substitute Hadin equalised in the 87th minute. Ifwat failed to contend with Wan Zack Haikal's corner properly, and the delivery was nodded in by Hadin at the far post.

In injury time Farhan dribbled past three players at the edge of the hosts' penalty box, but his ensuing try cleared the crossbar.

Djublic stabbed Alif Yusof's first timer just before the final whistle was blown, but it went agonisingly wide and the match ended in a 1-1 draw, with all still to play for in the second leg next Saturday.

More interestingly, Kedah will be without at least two of their key players in the second leg; as Helmi and Krasniqi will be suspended for the second leg due to their bookings.

Felda United : Farizal (GK), Alif, Shukor (C), Djulbic, Safwan (Wan Amirul 83'), Zah Rahan, Ferns, Danial (Norshahrul 45'), Wan Zack, Thiago, Ifedayo (Hadin 75').

Kedah : Ifwat (GK), Fitri, Helmi (C), Anderson, Rizal, Syazwan (Syafiq 70'), Krasniqi, Amirul, Baddrol, Sandro, Ken (Farhan 84').

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