BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
It was a night where one team wanted to show they have what it takes to win the title and the other simply trying to stay in the hunt. The resounding win for Felda showed much about the relative states in which the teams are in at present.
Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan sprang a surprise somewhat by benching Argentine Mauro Olivi in favour of Hazwan Bakri while Raimi Md Nor, largely culpable against Kedah on Tuesday, was left out of the squad altogether. Bunyamin Umar comes into the team in Raimi’s place.
Irfan Bakti fielded only three foreigners for the home team with Gilberto Carlos Filho serving a suspension.
The match started at a frenetic pace with early chances at both ends. Slick interplay by Selangor in the 4th minute led to Hafiz Kamal bearing down on goal but his shot was saved by Farizal Harun and on the follow-up Patrick Wleh saw his effort deflected wide.
Old habits die hard and for the ninth time in succession the Red Giants fall behind. This time it was an error by Bunyamin that let Hadin Azman through to give Felda the lead. Zainal must wonder if there is anyone he can rely on to plug the holes at the back.
Selangor had a clear shout for a penalty 15 minutes in when Hazwan was felled in the box but referee Zamzaidi Katimin waved the protests away.
There was little tracking back done from midfield by Selangor which left their defence badly exposed. Further uncertainty at the back by Zainal’s team led to chances for Felda to add to their lead in the remainder of the half but poor finishing denied them.
Selangor could count themselves lucky to be only a goal down at the break.
The flow of the game in the second period mirrored that of the first - Felda dominating the play. Francis Doe, the former Selangor striker, was causing havoc all night and should have extended the home team’s lead on two occasions. First, pouncing on a Hafiz Kamal error, he shot wide when clean through on Norazlan and moments later failed to convert from just 2 yards with the Selangor shot stopper producing a miracle save to deny the Liberian.
It seemed for a short while that Felda would pay for their profligacy. In the 71st minute, substitute Mauro Olivi fired a freekick that Farizal spilled for Wleh to tap in the leveler. Zainal must have thought they had escaped.
But Felda’s dominance would not be denied. Zahrahan Krangar, with a superb volley, and, finally, Forkey Doe, from an acute angle, made the score 3-1 to give a fairer reflection of the game.
This result will no doubt heap further pressure on Zainal Abidin Hassan but more than that it was the manner of the collapse that was most alarming. They lacked any discernable organization.
For Irfan Bakti’s side, who go top tonight, it looks increasingly likely that it is they, not Selangor, who will battle it out with Johor Darul Ta’zim for the MSL crown this year.
Adib Aizuddin, Zahrahan Krangar, Shukor Adan, Lutfulla Turaev, Christie Jayaseelan, Nor Fazly Alias, Syahid Zaidon, Hadin Azman, Francis Doe, Hasnizaidi Jamian, Farizal Harun
Robert Cornthwaite, Patrick Wleh, Shahrom Kalam, Andik Vermansah, Nazmi Faiz, Hazwan Bakri, Bunyamin Umar, Azrif Nasrulhaq, Hafiz Kamal, Norazlan Razali, R. Gopinathan