BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Two goals by Liberian striker Francis Doe in each half of the match was enough to give Felda United a 2-1 away win over Selangor in the Super League at the Shah Alam Stadium, and maintain their gap in the standings with league leaders JDT.
Both sides went into the match needing nothing less than a win, with the Red Giants wanting to close their eight-point gap with the Fighters, while the visitors wanted to avoid dropping points in their chase of league leaders JDT.
Selangor head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan made several changes to the side, eschewing his go-to formation; the 4-4-2, and began the match with 4-3-3, with Nazmi Faiz, S. Veenod and Hafiz Kamal in midfield, and Mauro Olivi and Hazwan Bakri supporting Patrick Wleh in attack. He also stuck with second goalkeeper Khairul Azhan manning between the sticks.
Felda boss Irfan Bakti meanwhile started with the tried and trusted, fielding all four of their foreign signings at the start, Farizal Harun in the goal, skipper Shukor Adan in defence and Christie Jayaseelan down the wing.
Just three minutes was needed for Felda's goal-machine Francis Doe to open the scoring. An overhead through pass from the right found Doe who drifted behind the Selangor backline, and he then calmly slotted the ball past Azhan. Selangor defenders protested the goal, claiming the Liberian was already offside, but replays showed that he had been kept onside by right back Bunyamin Omar.
Only then did Selangor settle in and avoid being on the back foot, but their poor finishing let them down again.
In the 17th minute, a short cross by Hazwan from the right found Wleh inside the Felda penalty box, but before the striker could do anything he was already outmuscled by Felda's defenders.
Three minutes from the halftime whistle, Selangor's acting captain Razman Roslan was booked for what honestly looked like a malicious tackle on Firdaus Faudzi.
The first half ended 1-0 to the visitors.
At the hour mark, Jayaseelan received a layoff from Doe inside the Selangor penalty box, but he rushed his follow-up and it was blocked by center back Ugo Ukah.
Three minutes later, Felda goalkeeper Farizal Harun made a mess of a cross by Hazwan from the left, and the ball which spilled through the goalkeeper's legs was poked in by Wleh with his toes, for an unlikely equaliser. The home side were back in the game, against the run of play.
But Felda went in front again in the 67th minute, also from Doe. A cross from the right was deflected into the path of the Liberian by his compatriot Zah Rahan Krangar at the edge of the Selangor box, and Doe stabbed it in for his and his side's second goal of the match.
In the 78th minute a cross from the left by Hazwan found Nazmi at the far post, but the youngster could only hit the ball over the crossbar, in what must have been a nomination for miss of the season.
Despite trailing by one, Zainal then inexplicably brought on a defender, Azmi Muslim as a substitution for the injured Wleh, which did not do wonders for their chance at finding the equaliser once again, especially considering the fact that their only goal in the match at the point came off the opposing goalkeeper's error.
The match ended in a 2-1 win to Felda, who with the win kept their chase of league leaders JDT. The result also meant that Selangor's hopes for the league title or an AFC Cup spot are realistically over.
Selangor: Khairul Azhan Khalid (GK), Bunyamin Umar, Ugo Ukah, Razman Roslan (C), Raimi Nor, S. Veenod, Nazmi Faiz, Hafiz Kamal, Hazwan Bakri (Adam Nor Azlin 86'), Mauro Olivi, Patrick Wleh (Azmi Muslim 79').
Felda: Farizal Harun (GK), Firdaus Faudzi (Idris Ahmad 58'), Shukor Adan (C), Gilberto Alemao, Adib Aizuddin, Christie Jayaseelan, Syahid Zaidon, Zah Rahan Krangar, Syamim Yahya (Fakri Saarani 67'), Lutfulla Turaev, Francis Doe (Aizulridzwan Razali 87').