Pahang choose the difficult path to bounce back to stay in the hunt for the League title when they beat Kelantan 5-3 in a goals galore match at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
What would have been an easy win, Pahang choose to court trouble which saw Kelantan coming close to returning home with one point despite playing with ten men from the 73rd minute when secondhalf substitute Mohd Khairul Izuan Rosli was flashed the red card for a foul on Zesh Rehman.
Zesh has earlier given Pahang a comfortable 4-1 lead after their 3-1 lead at halftime when he scored a cross from Mohd Hafiq Kamal in the 53th minute.
But instead of capitalising on the lead, Pahang set back Kelantan to come back at them and picked up their third yellow card when Mathew Davis in the 63rd minute.
Pahang paid the price when Mohd Nor Farhan got a free header from a cross Wan Haikal in 70th after poor judgement by goalkeeper Khairul Azhan.
Even Kelantan were playing with ten men Pahang despite numerous chances, but went begging from efforts of Mohd Hafiq Kamal, Dickson and Azamuddin Akil who had come in for Gopinathan in the 59th minute.
Then Azamuddin gave away a penalty in the dying minutes with a tackle on Iwuji Augustine which Mohd Farhan picked up a hattrick when he converted.
However, Azamuddin made amends when he scored from a well directed cross from Dickson dying minutes for the final 5-3 score.
Coach Zainal was relieved with the win and said his players played under pressure and could be the reason for their see-saw performance.
“But we cannot afford to put pressure on ourselves in this manner. We made some silly mistakes, gave away freekicks and penalty kicks which proved costly,” said Zainal after the match.
“I am just glad that we won this match to stay in the hunt for the title. We will take one match at a time to keep pace with JDT.”
JDT beat the Lions 1-0 to stay ahead with 43 points while Pahang are one point behind with 42 points.
Pahang play Perak next.
In the first half blew a dream start of taking a two-goal lead within eight minutes to put pressure on themselves.
With goals from R. Surendran in the seventh minute and Dickson Nwakaeme scoring his seventh goal of the season in the very next minute, Pahang let their socks down for Md Nor Farhan Muhammad to reduce the deficit in the 11th minute.
That goal kept Kelantan in the game and saw them getting back into the game to put pressure on Pahang.
The game also got tensed with Pahang’s Zesh Rahman and Mohd Saiful Nizam Miswan and Kelantan’s Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor picking up the yellow card from referee Zulkifli Ahmad.
Play also got scrappy with the Pahang’s defence being guilty of playing below par and only the alertness of goalkeeper Md Khairul Azhan Md Khalid saved the day for them.
In the process Khairul was involved in two collusions with Kelantan’s Iwuji Augustine Amamc and was lucky not to have suffered any serious injury and managed to continue.
But Matias Conti came to the rescue of Pahang just before halftime in the 43rd minute when he nodded Gopinathan’s corner kick for his twelfth goal of the season.
Suddenly Pahang came alive and were denied another goal when Dickson was denied his second goal by the crossbar in the very next minute.
Then Daimion Delano Stewart scored Pahang’s ‘fourth’ goal from a cornerkick by Gopinathan, but it was disallowed by referee Zulkifli for infringement on goalkeeper Khairul by Dickson.
Score remained at 3-1 for halftime for Pahang to return to the dressing room with some breathing space.
Coach: Zainal Abidin Hassan
Team Manager: Datuk Che Nasir Salleh
1 Md Khairul Azhan Md Khalid (GK)
3 Mohd Saiful Nizam Miswan
4 Daimion Delano Stewart
6 Zeshan Rehman
7 R. Surendran
9 Matias Ruben Conti
10 Dickson Nwakaeme
13 Mohd Razman Roslan (Capt)
21 Mohd Hafiq Kamal
24 R. Gopinathan
41 Mathew Thomas Davies
15 D. Saaaavindran
12 Azamuddin Mohd Akil
18 Muhammad Syawal Norsham
20 Mohd Shahrizan Mohd Salleh
23 Mohd Nasril Mat Nourdin (GK)
25 Md Rizua Shafiq Kamaruddin
Coach: Zahasmi Ismail
Team manager: Azman Ibrahim
19 Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (GK)
2 Norhafiz Zamani Misbah
6 Mohd Farisham Ismail
8 Wan Zahrulnizam Wan Zakaria
10 Md Nor Farhan Muhammad
11 Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor
12 Amar Rohidan
15 Md Noor Hazrul Md Mustafa
16 Md Badhri Mohd Radzi (capt)
17 Tuan Mohamad Faim
47 Iwuji Augustine Amamchi
3 Mohd Fitri Omar
9 Erwin Alberio Carillo Fragozo
23 Mohd Khairul Izuan Rosli
30 Mohd Shahrizan Ismail (Gk)
32 Mohd Qayyum
33 Amir Zikri
Referee: Zulkifli Ahmad
Assistant Referee 1: Hamzah Jaafar
Assistanjt Referee 2: Maswari Mislam
Fourth official: Saiful Radzali
Match Commissioner: Hairul Azlee Masnsor
Referee Assessor: Mat Lazim Awang Hamat