BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
Selangor put an end to their string of defeats with a win away to Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal DC in the AFC Cup which had the neutrals at the edge of their seats as the teams shared seven goals.
Red Giants' coach Zainal Abidin Hassan benched Raimi Md Nor in favour of Azmi Muslim at left back while Azrif Nasrulhaq was pushed further up field to the right wing forced by the absence of Andik Vermansah. Bunyamin Umar filled in at right back.
Sheikh Jamal, who lost both their AFC Cup games so far without scoring and conceding six, were looking for their first points of the campaign and coach Shafiqul Manik started with their three-pronged foreign attack of Landing Darboe, Emeka Onuoha and Wedson Anselme.
Selangor started much the brighter and could have scored as early as the 2nd minute when R. Gopinathan had his shot saved by SJDC keeper Shahidul Sohel and the same man denied Mauro Olivi’s header minutes after.
The Malaysian side’s “going-behind” sickness struck again just short of 30 minutes when Darboe hammered in low from 25 yards to give Norazlan Razali in goal no chance. The Selangor defence should have done better to deny the midfielder so much space.
Prior to this match, not much was seen of Patrick Wleh and Olivi in terms of a partnership but tonight they seemed to hit it on. Olivi from the right flank delivered a pinpoint cross from which Wleh headed home from close range with Sohel in no-man’s land.
The scoreline was 1-1 at halftime.
Eight minutes from the restart, Wleh used his strength and pace to easily overpower his marker from the left to feed Gopinathan to give Selangor the lead.
It looked as though they were going to push on to further punish the Group E minnows and end up comfortable winners. No such thing.
Within the space of two minutes, Sheikh Jamal turned the game on its head.
First, a lovely passage of play from the Bangladeshi Champions led to Darboe’s attempt rebounding off Norazlan for the same player to head across goal for Onuoha to level the score.
Straight from the restart, Azrif lost the ball in the middle of the park to Darboe who laid the ball to Anselme to put the ball past Norazlan.
3-2 and Selangor were staring into the abyss again. This against a team that did not manage to score at all in their previous AFC Cup games.
But credit must be given to Zainal’s men, they never gave up. Wleh, a candidate for man-of-the-match together with Landin Darboe, again caused mischief down SJDC’s right flank to square the ball to Olivi who flicked the ball in to make it 3-3.
Seven minutes from the end, Olivi scored his second of the night and the winning goal after his low shot somehow found its way under the hapless Sohel. The Bangladeshi shot stopper wouldn’t want to remember that one.
In keeping with the general poor defending by both teams, Sheikh Jamal still managed a few good chances before the final whistle but there were no further additions to the score line.
With the other game in Group E ending in a 1-1 draw between Tampines Rovers and Ceres, this win was vital for Selangor to remain relevant in the group.
Zainal’s troops got the points they so desperately needed but he knows there is plenty of work to be done going into the international break, especially in defence.
Sheikh Jamal line-up:
Shahidul Sohel, Topu Barman, Kasto Bosh, Munna Ahmed (Anisur 76th), Mohammad Linkon, Landing Darboe, Emeka Onuoha, Wedson Anselme, Mohammad Hoque (Pervez 77th), Jamal Bhuyan, Sohel Rana.
Norazlan Razali, Shahrom Kalam, Razman Roslan, Bunyamin Umar, Azmi Muslim, Nazmi Faiz Mansor (Saiful Ridzuan 75th), S. Veenod, Azrif Nasrulhaq (Adam Nor Azlin 90th), R. Gopinathan (Hadi Yahya 74th), Mauro Olivi, Patrick Wleh.