BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
Selangor overcame yet another slow start to a match to score four past struggling Sarawak with a heart-warming attacking game and display of clinical finishing.
Zainal Abidin Hassan was forced to make changes in the line-up as Indonesian speedster Andik Vermansah picked up a minor hamstring injury over the weekend. Rather surprisingly he opted for S. Veenod, a defensive midfielder, to take Andik’s place instead of Hadi Yahya or Adam Nor Azlin. Norazlan Razali, rested against Pahang, was restored between the sticks.
Sarawak coach K. Rajagobal was able to field all four of his imports including former Selangor playmaker Junior Aparecido, former Kelantan attacker Gilmar and ex-Fleda striker Ndumba Makeche.
In the 7th minute, latching onto a through pass from Makeche, Junior got in between Azrif Nasrulhaq and Razman Roslan to beat Norazlan on his near post. The Selangor keeper may feel he could have done better. For Junior, it was a sweet moment as the goal came against the team that discarded him after only a few months in 2014.
Like against Pahang on Saturday, going a goal down stung the Red Giants into action. Perhaps significantly, Sarawak’s Captain Ronny Harun was taken off injured in the 20th minute and Selangor began to dominate the match.
Five minutes shy of the half hour, a well-worked move on the right between Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Patrick Wleh led the latter whipping in a low cross for R. Gopinathan to tap in at the far post to level the score. A few minutes later, from a Gopinathan corner, Wleh rose high to powerfully head into the top corner of Sarawak’s net. 2-1.
Gilmar, only moments after Selangor taking the lead, got behind the Red Giants defence but lobbed high with only Norazlan to beat. The Brazilian also saw his long range effort saved by Norazlan and from the resultant corner, Gilmar again missed his header from 4 yards.
The last meaningful action before the break was a Mauro Olivi first time shot from a pass from playmaker Nazmi that skimmed Sarawak Goalkeeper Iqbal Suhaimi’s right hand post.
Sarawak burst out of the traps in the second half determined to get back in the game with several opportunities falling their way early after the restart. The best of which went the way of Gilmar yet again. But as before the hapless striker finished weak after being clean through against his night’s nemesis Norazlan.
In the mood Selangor are in lately, the Crocs were always going to pay a heavy price for their profligacy. Patrick Wleh added his second of the match, his sixth in as many games, after Olivi’s effort was only parried by Iqbal straight into the path of the grateful Liberian on 55 minutes.
Just after the hour mark, right back Azrif made an overlapping run into the Sarawak box and released a thunderbolt into the roof of the net. It was the Kota Damansara lad’s first ever goal for the Red Giants and what a goal it was. Game over, effectively.
Gilmar, who could have easily scored four or five goals with the chances he had, finally got into the score sheet after Selangor Captain Shahrom Kalam inexplicably handled the ball in his own penalty box. The aforementioned Brazilian coolly dispatched the resultant spot kick 15 minutes from the end.
Selangor have laid down a marker for the Championship and go joint top with archrivals Johor Darul Takzim. Zainal, however, will be slightly concerned about the number of chances they conceded to their opponents. As for Sarawak, still without a win this season, Rajagobal needs to get his strikers to put away their chances if they are to avoid a miserable year.
Selangor 4 (Gopinathan 26th; Wleh 28th, 55th; Azrif 66th)
Sarawak 2 (Junior 7th)
Selangor line-up: Norazlan, Azrif, Shahrom, Razman, Raimi (Azmi 79th), Nazmi, Hafiz, Veenod, Gopinathan (Adam 89th), Olivi (Hadi 77th), Wleh.
Sarawak line-up: Iqbal, Ridwuan (Thanaraj 68th), Ramesh, Ronny (Shreen 20th), Crassi, Hairol, Gurusamy, Junior, Syahrul (Partiban 63rd), Makeche, Gilmar.