BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
UKM FC showed their hunger to go far in the inaugural edition of the Challenge Cup, when they thrashed Sarawak 5-1 in their Group A opener on Tuesday. In the match that was held at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium, all the hosts' goals were scored by Nigerian striker Michael Ijezie, while the visitors' only goal was scored by Dzulazlan Ibrahim.
The two sides, who earlier had competed in the Premier League, finished adjacent to each other in the standings; the university side in seventh place and the state side in eighth place. Their two encounters earlier in the season had finished in one win for each club.
Interestingly, both sides fielded only two of their foreign players at the start of the clash, instead of the allowed maximum of four.
It did not take long for the hosts to open the scoring, when just four minutes into the match, Ijezie slammed home a freekick rebound that he had sent into the wall.
But the visitors dug deep and responded almost immediately, five minutes later. Dzulazlan timed his run well to get on the end of a long pass by Muzaimir Hadi, before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Nor Haziq Aris.
Fitri Za'aim Amran had the chance to retake the lead for the Varsity Boys in the 29th minute following a lay-off by Ijezie in the Sarawak penalty area, but he could only blaze his shot disappointingly over the crossbar.
Star striker Bobby Gonzales then missed a fine chance to find the back of the net. With only Haziq to beat, he tried to curl the ball past the custodian, but the ball ended on the wrong side of the post.
Despite the two goals scored in the first ten minutes, the first half in Selayang ended tied at 1-1.
Just like in the first half, the hosts went in front early in the second. Receiving a great through pass and shaking off his marker in the 46th minute, Ijezie then slotted the ball past onrushing Sarawak goalkeeper Firdaus Muhamad.
The Nigerian completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute, following some sloppy goalkeeping by Firdaus that allowed him to nick the ball and bury it in the back of the net.
He made it it four three minutes later, heading in a cross from the right by Rafizi Hamdan.
At the hour mark, he made it 5-1. To make matters worse, goalkeeper Firdaus was hurt trying to keep out the goal, and had to be replaced by Shaiful Wazizi Mohammad.
In the final minutes of the match Mateo Roskam was presented with a chance to narrow the gap for the Crocodiles, with only Haziq to beat. But he hesitated and was instantly closed down by the custodian and a defender.
The match ended in a 5-1 win to the Varsity Boys.
UKM : Haziq (GK), Waheed, Akmal, Aliff, Syafiq (Afiq 77'), Irwan, Faiz, Rafizi, Fitri (Azmi 83'), Asnan (C), Ijezie (Faidzol 89').
Sarawak : Firdaus (GK) Shaiful (61'), Rames, Dzulazlan, Chigon, Hairol (C), Jimmy, Alif, Bobby (Awang 61'), Hafiz, Muzaimir (Azizi 83'), Roskam.
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