Kedah did it the hard way to emerge as the 2019 Malaysia FA Cup champions after a narrow 0-1 win over Perak at Bukit Jalil National Stadium and will take their place in the preliminary qualifying round of the 2020 AFC Champions League next season.
The Red Eagles were put under pressure for large parts of the match in normal time but things take a turn in their favour right at the death of the second half with Amirul Azhan's red card and paved the way for their control in extra time and subsequently winning the tie through Fadzrul Danel's effort in the 106th minute of the match.
Cagey was the nominative word for the best part of the first hour of the match. Control of the match evaded both team as the strict Japanese referee Takuto Okabe outlined his way of policing the game from early on. An early yellow card flashed to Baddrol Bakhtiar for a foul on Nor Hakim Hassan in the 12th minute, set the tone for the match.
Both teams erred on the side of caution throughout that period with all four full backs hardly ever venturing past the halfway line. Perak did however create the first opening of the match in the 13th minute but Raianderson da Costa Morais' (Careca) header in the 13th minute was a meek attempt directed at Ifwat Akmal.
Kedah were finding it hard to break through Perak's resolute defence but in diminutive winger Farhan Roslan, they had a playerw who were causing Perak all sorts of problem. Nazirul Naim (14'), Leandro dos Santos (27') and Azhan (45') were all shown the yellow card for using extreme means to stop the silky Farhan.
After only just about shading the opportunities created in the first half, Perak were also the one who showed more threat in the second half. Nazirul struck a free kick from an impossible angle that Ifwat was relieved to see crashed onto the cross bar and out of harm's way in the 50th minute.
Nor Hakim Hassan and J. Partiban were slowly but surely getting into the thick of the action more in the second period, putting Rizal Ghazali and Alif Yusof on the back foot respectively. Shakir had to react quickest in the 60th minute to clear the ball after Nor Hakim managed to cut a ball in from the byline.
Kedah's first clear cut opportunity came in the 62nd minute when Farhan was put through on goal but Hafizul Hakim stood his ground and easily snuffed out the danger. In a surprising move, Farhan only lasted another four more minute despite being arguably their best dangerous player on the night and had to make way for the more experienced Azamuddin Akil.
Then in the 70th minute, Perak should have gone one-up as Brendan Gan was put through on goal but Ifwat quickly came off his line to block the midfielder. The ball spilled to the path of Ronaldo Henrique Silva who just couldn't find the back of the net through a crowded Kedah penalty box.
Fans of Kedah might have feared the worst when midfielder Amirul Hisyam slotted in at centre back to replace the suspended Renan Alves. But Perak posed little question to a player appearing in a makeshift role in the final. Amirul was relatively comfortable alongside the authoritative Shakir Hamzah at the heart of Kedah's defence.
Deep into stoppage time Kedah suddenly step up several gears and Hafizul were called into action in two crucial incidents. The keeper first won his one-on-one battle against Jonatan Bauman before picking himself up to deny Fernando Rodriguez outside the penalty box.
But disaster would strike for Perak in the ensuing melee as Amirul Azhan was shown his second yellow card for a diving challenge on Azamuddin and headed for an early bath. Baddrol's subsequent free kick was good but not enough to beat an impressive Hafizul on the night as the match headed into extra time.
As expected with the man advantage, momentum swung the way of Kedah in extra time. Substitute Idris Ahmad has to put in an outrageous block on Bauman to deny the latter from opening the score in the 99th minute. Hafizul once again came out of his block to clear before Bauman to get to the ball then Hussein El Dor matches Idris' effort with a similarly well timed challenge inside the box to deny Fayadh Zulkifli.
Aidil Sharin made the decision to take off the tiring David Rowley for Fadzrul Danel in the 104th minute and it was a move that paid off almost immediately. Rizal sped down the right hand side and delivered the perfect cross for Fadzrul to slam home from close range to give Kedah the lead in the match.
In desperation Mehmet Durakovic threw on attackers Shahrel Fikir and Firdaus Saiyadi for defender Naim and a tired Careca but it was all in vain as Kedah held on to win the cup for the fifth time in their history to go joint top with Selangor as the team who have won the FA Cup the most.
Follow Goal Malaysia on Instagram