BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
Selangor failed to break down a resilient 10 men Kelantan at Shah Alam Stadium tonight as the Red Giants fall further behind in their flagging MSL title challenge.
Zainal Abidin Hassan started with all his four imports while Razman Roslan came in for the unavailable Azrif Nasrulhaq and Saiful Ridzuan Selamat favoured ahead of Nazmi Faiz Mansor.
Meanwhile, new Kelantan steward Bulgarian Velizar Popov fielded only one foreign player in the form their top scorer Baze Ilijoski and proclaiming pre-match that he wanted his side to play “as if at home” and go for the three points. Given the nearly equal numbers of supporters for both sides, the visitors may well have felt Shah Alam being their “home” away from home.
The start of the game was sterile with barely any action of note. Robert Cornthwaite clumsily presented Kelantan with their first opportunity but Ilijoski failed to capitalize. In the 23rd minute, Indraputra Mahyuddin found the net from a set piece but the goal was chalked off for off-side.
Then came the pivotal moment of the match. Wan Zack Haikal lost his cool under the challenge of R. Gopinathan and swung an arm at the face of the Selangor winger and was instantly shown the red card. This with over an hour left to play.
Galvanised by the man advantage, the Red Giants pushed forward and Mauro Olivi tested Khairul Fahmi in the Kelantan goal on the half hour and controversially, the Kelantan shot stopper appeared to clearly bring down Patrick Wleh in the penalty box just minutes later. However, the night’s referee took the safe option and waived the Selangor protests away.
It was goalless at halftime.
Kelantan began the second half with renewed belief and for most of the half it was unnoticeable which side had the extra man. In fact, sensing the home side’s anxiety, Popov threw on Dramane Traore to assist Ilijoski up front.
Hazwan Bakri, in for the injured Wleh, had a decent shooting chance after good interplay between Andik Vermansah and another substitute Nazmi Faiz but blazed his right foot shot high on the hour.
The Red Warriors could have even won the game. Half way through the second half, Brendan Gan sent Traore free on the right but the latter’s low cross was well cleared by Razman with Ilijoski lurking for a tap in.
The match ended goalless with Zainal’s team disappointingly unable to create meaningful chances despite playing over an hour against 10 men.
Popov had the positive start he needed but for Zainal, the pressure is mounting ever more as they are now a massive eight points behind the league leaders.
Norazlan Razali, Razman Roslan, Shahrom Kalam, Robert Cornthwaite, Raimi Md Nor, Andik Vermansah, Saiful Ridzuan (Nazmi Faiz 11th ), Hafiz Kamal, R. Gopinathan, Patrick Wleh (Hazwan Bakri 49th), Mauro Olivi.
Khairul Fahmi, Nik Shahrul, Norhafiz Zamani, Muslim Ahmad, Qayyum Marjoni (Zairul Fitree 69th), Badhri Radzi (Jonathan Luca 86th), Brendan Gan, Wan Zaharulnizam (D. Traore 60th), Indraputra, Wan Zack Haikal, Baze Ilijoski