BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
Selangor and Kedah, Malaysia Cup Finalists last year, played out an eventful 2-2 draw in front of a near full house at the Stadium Bandaraya Selayang as the Malaysian Super League resumed action after the International break.
Selangor, third in the league standings coming into the game, had key players Robert Cornthwaite, Hazwan Bakri and Andik Vermansah returning to fitness. Coach Zainal Abidin Hassan had put out his best possible side but had to make a last minute shuffle when Razman Roslan sustained an injury during the warm-up and Raimi Md Nor stood in for the former Pahang player.
The Red Hawks were missing Baddrol Bakhtiar through injury and had Fakri Saarani taking his place on the right of midfield. Tan Cheng Hoe fielded a full complement of foreigners with Sandro Da Silva passing fit to start the game.
True to form, the home side started poorly and conceded after only seven minutes when Shazwan Zainon slotted in after Rizal Ghazali beat Selangor left back Raimi to supply a perfect cut back for an easy finish. It was the eighth time in succession the Red Giants have gone behind in a game.
Selangor Team Manager called for focus before kick-off but clearly the message did not go through to some of the players.
Indeed, Kedah should have added to their lead just three minutes later when Sandro sent Fakri through on Norazlan Razali in the Selangor goal but the former Kelantan man shot straight to the goalkeeper.
Selangor’s pace down the flanks, however, would eventually have an impact. Playmaker Nazmi Faiz Mansor started a brilliant move by finding Azrif Nasrulhaq free in midfield. Azrif then released R. Gopinathan on the right and the winger smashed the ball unerringly pass Farhan Abu Bakar to level the score.
Just a minute later, Selangor went ahead. Nazmi again was the instigator with a superb through pass to Gopinathan who squared the ball for Patrick Wleh to bundle the ball in from close range. The score was 2-1 at halftime.
Kedah started the second half with more purpose and took the game to Selangor with the outstanding Liridon Krasniqi dominating the midfield for the Northern side.
Amirul Hisyam went close with a long range shot at the hour which was well saved by Norazlan.
Minutes later, slick interplay by Kedah led to the hapless Raimi Md Nor fouling Carlos Kahe in the penalty box. A spot kick was rightly awarded and Sandro comfortably despatched.
Selangor huffed and puffed in search of the winning goal and came close when substitute Hazwan Bakri skewed his shot wide 4 minutes from the end after a Raimi ball into the penalty box caused mayhem in the Kedah defence.
Kedah played the better football but all considered a draw was probably a fair result.
Zainal Abidin Hassan lamented his side’s “lost momentum” in the second half.
“We played well in the first half and scored two good goals but we lost some momentum in the second period and let Kedah equalize. We will need to maintain the first half performance for the whole game in the next match against Felda,” Zainal said.
Kedah steward Tan Cheng Hoe was rather more satisfied with the outcome of the game.
“I think we can be satisfied with our game and I am happy with our fighting spirit to level the score in the second half even though Selangor are stronger than us”.
Norazlan, Shahrom, Cornthwaite, Raimi, Azrif, Nazmi, Hafiz (Veenod 72nd), Gopinathan, Andik (Hazwan 72nd), Olivi (Adam 79th), Wleh.
Farhan, Rizal, Khairul, Bang (Shazwan Tajudin 35th ), Azmeer, Liridon, Amirul, Fakri (Farhan 86th), Sandro, Shazwan, Carlos.