BY I.F. WONG Follow on Twitter
Selangor failed to bounce back from their Malaysia FA Cup exit last week when they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Singapore’s Tampines Rovers at Stadium Perbandaran Selayang in the AFC Cup group stage match. Unlike their loss to PDRM where they missed many chances, the brutal truth is that the home side were dismal this time and deserved little from the game.
Having seen his jaded team beaten on Friday, Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan rang the changes in the hope of freshening things up and give some fringe players an opportunity to shine. Norazlan Razali reclaimed his place in goal while Bunyamin Umar, Azmi Muslim, Saiful Ridzuan Selamat and Rizal Fahmi Rosid came in for Azrif Nasrulhaq, Raimi Md Nor, Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Razman Roslan respectively.
For Tampines, V. Sundramoorthy left his star signing Jermaine Pennant and Billy Mehmet on the bench while Fazrul Nawaz spearheaded their attack.
The first half was a generally scrappy affair with misplaced passes galore and few genuine opportunities on either side. The first meaningful opening came in the 18th minute when Andik Vermansah released Patrick Wleh on the Tampines goal only for the Liberian, who is in hot goal-scoring form, to blaze his shot across the goal mouth from only six yards.
At the half hour, the deadlock was broken. Red Giants right-back Bunyamin badly lost the ball at the edge of his own penalty box for Fazrul Nawaz to pounce and roll the ball past Norazlan in goal. It looked initially that the Tampines striker was off-side but Azmi Muslim strayed from the Selangor defensive line and played Fazrul on-side.
Bunyamin and, in particular, Azmi Muslim had a nightmare of a game with the latter completely taken to the cleaners by his direct opponent Jordan Webb who went past the Selangor left back at will.
The half-time whistle couldn’t have come soon enough for Selangor.
At the restart, Selangor emerged with Nazmi and R. Gopinathan who replaced the ineffectual Hadi Yahya and Saiful Ridzuan. If they looked all at sea in the first period, Selangor came roaring off the blocks in the second.
In the 60th minute, a beautiful through pass by Red Giants midfielder Hafiz Kamal found Gopinathan on the left flank who squared the ball invitingly to Andik. The Indonesian then saw his goal-bound shot blocked by the Tampines defence excellently marshalled by captain Mustafic Fahrudin.
That was as close as Selangor got to a goal as they huffed and puffed, but could not bring the Tampines house down.
Mauro Olivi, who has shown some neat touches in previous games, was largely anonymous and looked at times disinterested as did many of his team-mates.
One exception was skipper Shahrom Kalam who almost single-handedly kept the Singaporean attacks at bay and even ventured forward himself no doubt frustrated by his attackers’ efforts.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of Selangor’s display was the fact that Tampines goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud did not have to make a save all night despite ending up in the goal himself after a couple of strong aerial challenges from Wleh. So comfortable were Sundramoorthy’s side that the coach decided that he did not even need to bring on foreigners Pennant and Mehmet.
After a dream unbeaten start to his time with Selangor, Zainal must now earn his pay cheque and lift his troops for the trips to Terengganu and Bangladesh. No small job that.
Selangor line-up: Norazlan Razali, Azmi Muslim, Bunyamin Umar, Shahrom Kalam (C), Rizal Fahmi Rosid, Saiful Ridzuan (Nazmi Faiz 46th), Hafiz Kamal (S. Veenod 80th min), Andik Vermansah, Mauro Olivi, Hadi Yahya (R. Gopinathan 46th), Patrick Wleh.
Tampines line-up: Izwan Mahbud, Mustafic Fahrudin (C), Izzdin Yacob, Fazrul Nawaz, Fabian Kwok (Ismadi Mukhtar 55th), Yasir Hanapi (Shahdan Sulaiman 67th), Afiq Yunus, Hafiz Sujad, Jordan Webb, Irwan Shah, Kwon Jun (Shakir Hamzah 87th).