The Elephants came through a grueling 120 minutes, followed by a nerve-wrecking penalty shoot-out to finally overcome Bos Gaurus and progress in the FA Cup
On the eve of this match, I’m sure both the managers of Perak and Pahang would have had a 120 minute battle, followed by a long penalty shoot-out, as low down on the list for what they would have wanted for their teams in the first round of the Malaysia FA Cup. Truth be told it was a match full of endeavour, but desperately short of quality, as the four goals aside, there were few moments that set pulses racing.
However in the early stages it seemed that the visitors may win at a canter. It took them only seven minutes to take the lead, after a corner won by the ever lively Gopinathan was headed back across goal at the far post by Damion Stewart, allowing Azamuddin Akil to stoop home and head in. Perak were gifted a way back into the game only five minutes later as the usually reliable Stewart made a hash of a clearance which presented the ball to Noor Hazrul. He then brought the ball inside, before teeing up captain Haardi Jafar who let fly with a rocket of a low shot that gave Khairul Azhan no chance.
During the first half the game moved along at an unsurprisingly frantic pace, with full-blooded tackles flying in. Although Pahang looked comfortable in possession, especially Azidan Sarudin, rarely did they threaten the Perak goal, with Matias Conti starved of service and getting ever more frustrated as the game wore on. Just as it seemed that both teams would go into half-time level, more inspired finishing, and poor Pahang defending, put the hosts infront. The unfortunate Zesh Rehman blocked a shot from distance, allowing the ball to fall to fellow import player, Perak’s Kyaw Zayar Win. He was then not closed down quick enough by Rehman and Shahrizan Salleh, which allowed him to steer the ball past Khairul Azhan into the bottom corner.
While the defence could have done much better, they were not assisted by midfielders Azidan and Hafiz Kamal who failed to provide adequate protection. Tok Gajah were almost level two minutes into the second half when Razman Roslan’s wicked right-wing delivery was close to being turned in by Gopinathan’s stomach, but Nor Haziq Aris in the Perak goal did well to turn it behind. The set-piece problems which led to Perak conceding the first goal came back to haunt them on 57 minutes, but this time it was the turn of Haziq Aris to play the villain. The keeper inexplicably came for Kamal’s deep corner, and when he missed it Stewart was left with the simple task of heading into the empty net. While the next 30 minutes offered precious little in the way of clear cut chances, Khairul Azhan was very almost another red-faced keeper, after he was nearly caught out by Noor Hazrul.
The midfielder tried a cheeky free-kick from distance which had Azhan scrambling to tip the ball over the bar. With nothing to separate the teams, the match went into a draining extra time period. Within three minutes Gopinathan almost put his team ahead after he latched onto Tuah Iskandar’s poor header. The winger showed nimble feet to cut inside and get the shot away, but Haziq was equal to it. The next decent chance fell to Kyaw Zayar Win who let fly from 25 yards after Akil’s weak headed clearance, but his effort went narrowly wide. On the stroke of half time Zayar Win turned provider as he clipped in a deligtful cross which was met by substitute Eliel da Cruz Guardiano, but he could only head at Azhan.
For the remaining 15 minutes fatigue well and truly set in as the match went towards the inevitable pentalty shoot-out. Želimir Terkes and Matias Conti were both successful in their penalties, before Noor Hazrul and Faizol Hussien both shared misses. Azmeer Yusof had a poor penalty saved by Azhan, and Razman Roslan capitalised to give Pahang the lead. Guardiano, Zayar Win and Rehman all kept their nerve for their respective teams, meaning it was all down to Pahang’s Azamuddin Akil to secure victory.
However his powerful penalty smacked off the crossbar to send the penalty shootout into sudden death. Converted penalties from Hisyamudin Mohamed Sha’ari and Fauzi Roslan kept the game level, before Perak’s Syahmil Khairi struck a post, allowing Pahang’s Saiful Nizam Miswan to score the winning penalty and finally send his team through to the next round.