Humbling exit for Perak in eye opener play-off against Ulsan

Nazirul Naim, Ulsan v Perak, AFC Champions League playoffi, 19 Feb 2019
It was one bridge too far for Perak to cross after they crashed out of the AFC Champions League following a 5-1 hammering by Ulsan Hyundai.

Perak knew they were in for a tough ride and with the format of the play-off favouring the higher seeded sides just like it did when they faced Hong Kong's Kitchee FC in the preliminary stage, Ulsan Hyundai rammed home their advantage to romp away with a 5-1 win over the Malaysian side.

It was a harsh footballing lesson for the 2018 Malaysia Cup champions who held their own for 45 minutes to go into half time at only one goal down but the floodgates well and truly opened up in the second half as Ulsan illustrated their dominance the displayed the massive gulf in quality for all to see.

An injury picked up by Brendan Gan in training meant that Mehmed Durakovic had to replace the experienced midfielder with Kenny Pallraj right from the start as the away side played with banks of four looking to protect Hafizul Hakim's goal.

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To an extent, it was a tactic that worked as Ulsan were largely frustrated by some heroic defending put out by the likes of Kenny, Shahrul Saad and Zachary Anderson. But all that would be made redundant by a magical move produced by one former English Premier League player in Kim Bo-kyung which carved open Perak's defence for the unfortunate Amirul Azhan to bundle into his own net.

Perak's impact in the attacking side of things few and far in between but they did have a chance to level things before half time when the industrious Firdaus Saiyadi fashioned an opportunity out of nothing to set up Gilmar Filho but the latter's composure was lacking and he thrashed the ball high, wide and not very handsome.

The big centre forward alongside Wander Luiz and Leandro dos Santos were far more culpable than the rest of the inexperienced players that Perak paraded. When push come to shove and expecting the team to fight it out against a far more superior teams, it is these imports that have to be relied upon to lift their game and guide the rest of the team.

Instead the opposite happened and they were the ones that disappointed the most on the night as Ulsan swept all before them in the second half with Mix Diskerud grabbing a brace before goals from Lee Dong-kyeong and Junior Negrao made 5-0 with three minutes left of normal time to be played.

Nazirul Naim who spent most of the time on his back foot defending did at least showed what he can do further up the pitch when the slammed home a shot from an improbable angle to claim nothing more than a consolation goal for the visitors in the 90th minute.

Johor Darul Ta'zim themselves spent years trying to bridge the gap and Perak are only at the starting point. As disappointing as any 5-1 defeat could be, the reasons for that happening is not unfathomable and not beyond repair. The gap is huge from a Malaysian team to a Korean team, let alone one considered second best in the country.

Lessons are what Durakovic and Perak will have to take from this match and if all things go well in the rest of the 2019 season, they will get another crack at this level with hopefully all the experienced gained from this hammering.


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