BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Selangor and Melaka United shared the spoils at Selayang Stadium as they played out a 1-1 draw on the second round of fixtures for the 2017 Super League season. Khairu Azrin's stunning striker gave Melaka the lead but new signing Victor Astafei came on to secure a point for the Red Giants late in the second half.
P. Maniam gave his 3-4-3 another opportunity to impress as he kept faith with the three-man defence that did so well against Penang last week. Razman Roslan and Rizal Fahmi flanked Ugo Ukah with Saiful Ridzuwan and Halim Zainal being the double pivot defensive midfield shield. Meanwhile Eric Williams finally got his first taste of proper Malaysian football by fielding Ilijia Spasojevic up front being supported by the evergreen Amri Yahyah and new signing, Sergio Aguero.
The closely knitted Selangor defence kept a tight rein over goal-machine Spasojevic with chances at a premium for either side. The closest Melaka got to the lead was a Khuzaimi Piee freekick midway through the first half that Norazlan Razali had to push away. There were a lot of intricate movement and passing between the attacking trio of Melaka but poor final pass let them down.
Slotted in on the right hand side of the attacking trident with Forkey Doe and Adam Nor Azlin, S. Veenod provided a cameo as to his position there particularly in the 36th minute. Cutting in from the right hand side, his low far post shot had to be pushed away by Badrulzaman Halim. Forkey's was on hand to follow-up but his tap-in was cleared off the line by the impressive Puaneswaran Gunasekaran.
Selangor started the stronger in the second half and could have taken the lead if not for poor finishing. In the 58th minute, Veenod again cuts in from the right hand side and he managed to find Adam but the latter's shot lacked power to trouble Badrulzaman. Adam was to do better just two minutes later when he produced a wonderful cross field pass to Forkey on the left hand side but the Liberian's near post shot was easily coverd by Badrulzaman.
The failure to take their chances would come back to haunt Selangor in the 69th minute when Melaka opened the scoring. Aguero chased down a long pass on the right hand side and cleverly picked out Khairu at the edge of Selangor's penalty box. The former PKNS midfielder calmly picked the top corner with a rasping shot that gave Norazlan no chance.
However to their credit, Selangor didn't lose their composure despite going down and it took them only 11 minutes before they levelled proceedings once again. Raimi Nor's corner kick in the 80th minute was well delivered and substitute Astafei rose highest to head home the equaliser. The static Melaka defence will not want to see how they gifted the Romanian his first goal in Malaysian waters.
Both teams seemed to have accepted the share point and both defences stayed firm for the rest of the match. A draw after opening day win wasn't the result Maniam would have wanted but he would take heart from his team's resolve to fight back. As for Williams, a tough point earned away from home in what is his first official match will be a positive to take back home. On a day when the defence took centrestage, a point a piece looks the fairest of results.