JDT 2-2 Pahang (pen 3-5): Ten-man Pahang retain Malaysia Cup after penalty shootout

Pahang equalised after losing one man, and held their nerves during extra-time and penalty shootout to triumph over the Southern Tigers.

GOALBY    ZULHILMI ZAINAL     Follow on Twitter

After a slow start to the Malaysia Cup 2014 tournament which included unfavourable fixture dates and flip-flop schedule change, the final match was played between JDT I and Pahang, two of the most attack-minded in the country this season. And for that reason alone, the tournament was set to end on a crescendo, an explosive final that compensated for the said slow start.

The designated home team, JDT started with their foreign players Jorge Diaz and Luciano Figueroa in front, with Jasazrin Jamaluddin, Shakir Shaari, Safiq Rahim and Amri Yahyah in midfield. The Tok Gajah meanwhile made almost no change to the squad who put five past their semifinal opponents; Kedah last weekend. They too played two foreign strikers; Dickson Nwakaeme and Matias Conti, supported by their pacy winger R Gopinathan.

Pahang drew first blood in the 14th minute, after Gopi was fouled to the left of the JDT penalty box. Midfielder Azidan Sarudin took the resulting free kick himself, 30 metres from the goalmouth, which he launched straight towards the front of the goalmouth. Nwakaeme overcame JDT defender Asraruddin Putra's challenge and headed the ball past JDT goalkeeper Al-Hafiz Hamzah into the net, to make it 1-0 to the defending champions.

JDT skipper Safiq Rahim almost equalised four minutes later from a lay off by Diaz, but his shot was timely blocked by a defender.

The opener was conceded due to JDT defence's shakiness, and they further displayed the shakiness, perhaps due to the absence of national centreback Aidil Zafuan who was suspended in this match for accumulated bookings.

But when the defence were finally able to calm themselves down and get back into the game, JDT were finally able to find the equaliser in the 31st minute, when a Mahali Jasuli early cross towards the far post was nodded back into play by Figueroa. Pahang defenders failed to deal with the ball confidently, and the rebound fell to Diaz in the box, who scored by striking the ball past several devenders, into bottom far corner.

The Southern Tigers turned the match on his head just two minutes later, when Pahang captain Razman Roslan was adjudged to have used his hand in the box to deal with a through pass. This time it was Figueroa's turn to score himself, from the penalty, sending Pahang goalkeeper Khairul Azhan the wrong way to make it 2-1 to JDT.

In the 44th minute Amri looked to have been fouled in the Pahang penalty area, but referee Nagor Amir wasn't having any of it.

The teams went into the dressing room with JDT leading Pahang 2-1.

Back from the break, Diaz also made it three, when he tried from the edge after spotting that Azhan was slightly off-position.

In the 52nd minute, Figueroa was through on goal with only Azhan to beat, from a brilliant through pass by Diaz. He beat the keeper, but only managed to hit the far post. Pahang was given a reprieve.

But Pahang nevertheless weren't doing themselves any favour, when in the 68th minute Saifulnizam Hiswan was spotted by the assistant ref to have punched Amri Yahyah in the stomach in an off-the-ball incident. He did it as retaliation after Amri tried tripping him, but the ref only saw his punch, and not Amri's attempt, and he was sent off. He needed some convincing by his teammates and JDT players to head for his early shower.

But amazingly, the sending off was seemingly what Pahang needed. In the 71st minute, Damion Stewart laid off Nwakaeme with a header following a long freekick, and Nwakaeme did not miss from 5 meters out for his and Pahang's second of the match.

Three minutes from the end of regulation time, Safiq and Diaz exchanged passes before the forward took a snapshot. Azhan managed to get the softest of touches on the attempt, pushing it towards the goalpost. Luckily for them, this time the rebound fell to Razman Roslan, who managed to clear it.

In the final minutes, Pahang received a freekick at the edge of the JDT box after Nwakaeme was fouled, but Hafiz Kamal's effort was way off target. Extra-time was needed to decide the outcome of the final.

At the start of the extra-time, JDT headcoach Bojan Hodak brought in national forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha. Pahang meanwhile had earlier taken off Conti for Zesh Rehman, to plug in the hole left by Shahrizan's sending off.

In the eighth minute, Diaz was fed a teasing cross from the right, but his header narrowly missed the target.

Despite their one-man advantage, JDT could not take advantage of the superiority. Pahang had the bigger share of the possession, which meant that JDT were left pinned in their own half for most of the extra-time.

Eighteen minutes in, Gopi tried from range but he narrowly missed.

But neither side was able to score in the extra-time, so the match headed into penalty shootout, apparently only the third time the Malaysia Cup final match had to be decided in this way, ever since it was first played.

Razman, Figueroa, Stewart, Diaz, Shahrizan Salleh, Harris Harun, Zesh converted the first eight kicks without much problem.

Only when it was the turn of JDT forward, Norshahrul was the first save in the shooutout made. Norshahrul telegraphed his weak penalty kick, and Azhan correctly dived the right way to save it.

Pahang's final taker Hafiz Kamal did not make the similar mistake, converting his penalty kick and giving the Elephants their second consecutive Malaysia Cup, and their third silverware of the season, after bagging the 2014 Charity Shield, and the FA Cup.