Shah Alam Stadium proved to be a lucky stadium again for Kedah after they fended off Pahang to lift the 2017 FA Cup. Kedah's 3-2 win came on the back of reckless performance from Kiko Insa who was shown the red card before half time as well as industrious attacking display led by Ken Ilso.
Dollah Salleh rewarded new signing Yamil Romero with a starting position as he opted for the central defensive unit of Muslim Ahmah and Heo Jae-Won. There was also no place for the impressive Nor Azam Azih, with his spot going to Insa. As for Nidzam Adzha, unfortunately Zac Anderson doesn't make the cut and Syawal Nordin partners Khairul Helmi in the centre of defence. Elsewhere, Kedah were able to field their best attacking line-up - parading Liridon Krasniqi, Sandro da Silva, Syazwan Zainon, Baddrol Bakhtiar and Ilso.
It was a lackluster start to the match as both sides kept their defensive shape well. Pahang had Syamim Yahyah playing off Matheus Alves, with Insa and Romero manning the heart of the midfield. As for Kedah, Sandro and Krasniqi were the orchestrator but found very little space to operate in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
The game sparked into life in the 20th minute when Baddrol produced a superb diagonal pass for Syazwan to run onto. The diminutive winger exchanged one-two with Sandro before delivering the perfect cross for Ilso to open the scoring for Kedah.
Then came the moment of the first half that left Pahang handicapped for the rest of the match. Insa had earlier been yellow carded for a foul on Krasniqi, he was to receive his marching orders after a clash with Rizal Ghazali left the right back in pain. Referee, Nagor Amir wasted no time to show Insa his second yellow and Insa's time in the final finished with 13 minutes still on the clock before half time.
The Red Eagles took the opportunity to add to their lead at the stroke of half time and again Syazwan was involved. The winger's run into Pahang's box was halted but the ball fell to Baddrol who swept home a sweet left foot strike to make it 2-0 to Kedah.
However, that was the end of the action in the first half as Pahang gave themselves a lifeline when they pulled one back in injury time. From a corner kick, Jae-Won's shot took a wicked deflection that looped over Ifwat Akmal in Kedah's goal. With the score at 1-2, Pahang went into the break knowing they still have 45 minutes to get back into the game.
The way the second half went, it was as if Kedah were the ones playing with a man less. Pahang were on the offensive and had chance to draw level despite their numerical disadvantage. Khairul Helmi had to stretch to clear a Mahamadou Sumareh cross and the Kedah captain was also lucky not to be pulled up on a tug on Alves inside the penalty box.
The best chance for Pahang came in the 69th minute when a good build-up play between Romero and Sumareh saw the latter providing a decent cut back for the new signing. However, Romero snatched at the chance and proceeded to blast the ball well over the bar.
Just four minutes later, that Romero miss would come back to haunt him as Kedah struck for the third time in the match. Krasniqi had released Ilso on the left hand side, the Danish striker's cross was midjudged by Wan Azraei and Baddrol was on hand to tap in to make it 3-1 to Kedah.
The excitement continued for the 78,898 strong crowd at Shah Alam Stadium as Pahang again reduced the deficit back to just one goal, in the 80th minute. Alves was allowed a couple of stabs at a cross and he eventually picked out the right one out that Sumareh powered in a header beyond Ifwat for Pahang's second goal of the night.
However, it all came too late for Pahang as they failed to find the back of the net for the third time in the match. Kedah just about deserved to win their first FA Cup since 2008 but Pahang too deserve plaudits in the manner they overcame the sending off of Insa to give their opponent a fight for their money.