BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Sarawak were held to their third consecutive league draw at home, when they were tied 1-1 by Selangor in their Super League match on Tuesday. In the match that was held at the Sarawak Stadium, two almost-comical slips by centre back Ugo Ukah and striker Afiq Azmi, which happened within a duration of one minute of each other, led to the hosts' opener in the 34th minute by Mateo Roskam, but left back Rizal Fahmi Rosid showed his teammates how it should be done, equalising just before halftime with a wonderful solo effort.
At the start of the match, the Crocodiles head coach David Usop fielded only two of his foreign players; attacker Roskam and defender Demerson. Out-of-favour Philippines international Mark Hartmann was benched, while Jong-Ho Lee was not even listed in the match squad.
Meanwhile for the Red Giants, with Forkey Doe's absence, Selangor boss Maniam Pachaiappan could only rely on three imports; centre back Ugo Ukah, and attackers Juliano Mineiro and Victor Astafei. Two players who had not started a match in a long time finally got their chance; Afiq and Fittri Shazwan.
The visitors dominated possession in the first five minutes, before the hosts managed to even things out without conceding.
However, something peculiar started happening. A number of times, the Red Giants' players kept slipping on the pitch, even though it had not rained in the area, and the hosts' players did not face the same problem.
And this queer situation finally punished them, causing them to concede. In the 33rd minute, Afiq who was in the Sarawak penalty box tried connecting with a teasing cross from the left by winger Kannan Kalaiselvan. But he inexplicably slipped, and the ball was soon back in the Crocodiles possession, who launched into a counter attacking move.
The move was stopped by Ukah and it was probably not the most difficult threat that he has had to contain in his career, but when trying to shield the ball in his own penalty area and clearing it, the Nigerian too slipped. Midfielder Abdul Rahim Razak quickly pounced on the ball, and sent a low cross from the right which Roskam put behind to give his side the lead.
The away side must have been ruing Afiq's missed chance, because if it had gone in, things could have a lot more different for them.
But David's men were not without their own problems. Despite the fact their players were much better able to stay upright than their opponents, they still made school boy errors in their passing, with many of their deliveries going astray, giving away possession.
Their failure to capitalise on the shifting of momentum following the goal allowed Selangor to equalise, although immense credit must be paid to the scorer Rizal.
Rizal, who had not started their last four matches prior to this encounter, found himself with the ball in the Sarawak half, and dribbled for a short distance to get closer to the penalty box. Seeing an opening, he struck from outside, gunning for the top far corner. His shot beat Sarawak custodian Shahril Sa'ari, hit the far post, and went behind the line for a spectacular equaliser.
In the second half the visitors dominated possession again, but in typical fashion could not make the advantage count.
Afiq and Fittri could not make the impact that Maniam had hoped, and both have been taken off by the 70th minute. Afiq's substitution for Halim Zainal in particular was more telling, as the away crowd cheered sarcastically when he came off.
Melaka United loanee Nurshamil Ghani was brought on for Fittri in the 70th minute, and he came close to making an instant impact just a minute late. His header off of a corner kick only managed to hit the near post.
David brought on Malaysia U23 international Nur Shamie Iszuan, but the young winger was marked out of the game by his opposing number Kannan. Hartmann was introduced as a late substitution, and he too failed to improve their chances.
The match ended 1-1, Sarawak's sixth league match at home without a win out of all six, and Selangor's third consecutive league encounter without a win.
Sarawak vs Selangor match highlights
Sarawak: Shahril (GK), Ronny (C), Demerson, Tommy, Roskam, Rames, Dzulazlan, Hairol, Shreen, Awang, Rahim.
Selangor: Azhan (GK), Rizal, Ukah, Razman (C), Kannan, Mineiro, Saiful, Syahmi, Fittri, Afiq, Astafei.