BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Felda United finally recorded their first ever win in the AFC Cup after they defeated Ceres-Negros FC 3-0 in a Group G match played at Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday evening. With the win, the Fighters moved level on points with Ceres and gives them a fighting chance to qualify to the next stage of the competition.
B. Sathianathan opted to have Nor Fazly Alias in defence to replace the injured Shukor Adan. Meanwhile Gaston Cellerino started up front in place of suspended Lucas Cano. As for Ceres, Risto Vidakovic went for a 4-4-2 formation with Martin Steuble and Luke Woodland as the heart of the midfield.
It was Felda who started the better and got in front as early as the 6th minute of the match. Hadin Azman played a good square pass to Syahid Zaidon just outside the penalty box and the latter smashed the ball into the top corner. Roland Muller had no chance to reach the shot and was picking the ball out of the net before he even had a touch of the ball.
Ceres were struggling to get into the game with the strike pairing of Bienvenido Maraa On and Fernando Rodriguez did not get the service they would have liked. So it was left to the home side to continue to press on the advantage but were to be let down by poor finishing.
Cellerino was the first culprit when in the 29th minute, he somehow conspired to shoot wide when it was easier to score from a Norshahrul Idlan cross. Then it was the turn of Zah Rahan right before half time to do the same, this time from a Cellerino pass.
There were no changes at half time and it was the away side that came out with renewed vigour for the second half. In the 51st minute, Ceres worked themselves into a good shooting position at the edge of the box but Iain Ramsay's shot was parried away by Farizal.
Despite their early pressure, Ceres would go two nil down in the 65th minute. Norshahrul started the move inside his own half when he nutmeg a Ceres player before exchanging passes with Zah Rahan. The Malaysia forward's subsequent cross into the box was hammered into the top corner by Hadin.
Things would get worse for Ceres in the 76th minute when substitute Fazrul Hazli got in on the act, barely minutes after coming on for Hadin. Muller inexplicably fumbled a corner kick and Fazrul was on hand to tap in one of the easiest goals of his career to make it 3-0 to Felda.
The win puts Felda in a comfortable position with two rounds of matches remaining. The good margin achieved also puts them in good stead ahead of the crucial final two encounters against Tampines Rovers and Ha Noi FC. A far cry from the disappointing start they had before the arrival of Sathianathan back at the end of February.