Last year's Super League (MSL) champions, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) met last year's Malaysia Cup champions Selangor at the Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium on Saturday night for the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Cup, which also doubled as a match opener for the 2016 MSL, and Malaysian football season in general.
At the start of the match, the Southern Tigers' head coach fielded
Farizal Marlias as goalkeeper, with Mahali Jasuli in defence, alongside
Aidil Zafuan, Fazly Mazlan and Marcos Antônio. Skipper Safiq Rahim,
Hariss Harun, and S. Kunanlan were in midfield. Recent signing Martin
Lucero needed no time to adjust despite having only arrived at Larkin
literally days before the match, and started the match in attack,
alongside another pre-season signing Azinee Taib, and Jorge Diaz.
Meanwhile, the visitors' head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan opted for
the safe route by starting with his best players. Norazlan Razali manned
the goal, protected by defenders Raimi Noor, Robert Cornthwaite,
Shahrom Kalam and recent JDT transfer target Azrif Nasrulhaq. Meanwhile
Andik Vermansah, Nazmi Faiz, Malaysia Cup hero Hazwan Bakri and recent
signing Hafiz Kamal had midfield duty, with pre-season acquisitions
Patrick Wleh and Mauro Olivi leading the Red Giants' attack.
At the five minute mark, a JDT long throw caught Selangor unawares
and Lucero bore down on the ball with only former JDT goalkeeper
Norazlan to beat, but Norazlan stood his ground and managed to keep out
the Argentine's effort. The ball ricocheted into the danger area, but
the visitors' defence managed to contain the ensuing melee.
In the 13th minute, Mahali's pass to Safiq at the edge of the box
almost produced the opener, but Safiq's first-time shot went over the
In the 24th minute, a wonderful through pass from Diaz released
Lucero and again he had only Norazlan to beat, but again Azlan
disappointed him, getting a finger to his low shot that was destined for
the far bottom corner.
The match took its first toll three minutes later, when Hazwan had to
be taken off for an injury. He was replaced by R. Gopinathan.
Ten minutes before the halftime whistle, a free-kick taken by Safiq
darted dangerously close across the Selangor goalmouth, but two of his
teammates waiting at the far post could not connect with the ball.
Lucero tumbled from a shove in the Selangor danger area in the 37th
minute, but the referee waved it away. Just moments later, it was
Olivi's turn to have a penalty claim waved away.
Selangor kept making mistakes afterwards, and Mahali could have
scored two minutes before the halftime whistle, but for Raimi's
But Selangor were made to pay for the mistake from the corner-kick
that was awarded after Raimi's tackle. Safiq's corner was headed by
Harriss, who jumped unmarked at the near post to finally beat Azlan.
Selangor's mental frailty were exposed, when young midfielder Nazmi
had to resort to a cynical tackle to stop a counter attack just seconds
before the half-time whistle. He received the first booking of the
match, before the referee blew his whistle to end the first half, to the
Red Giants' relief.
Olivi's contribution in the first half had been minimal, but in the
56th minute he tried for the spectacular, trying to curl the ball into
the top corner past Farizal, who stood rooted to the ground. His try
missed the goal by mere inches.
Two minutes later, Azniee Taib was taken off for Azamuddin Akil.
Olivi had gone for the spectacular minutes earlier, but it was Hafiz
who showed how it should be done. At the hour mark, Hafiz struck a
beautiful free-kick from the right, defeating Farizal. It was 1-1,
against the run of play.
Gomez evidently wanted to push for a win, as after the equaliser he
brought in Nazrin Nawi for Mahali Jasuli. Meanwhile Nazmi, on one yellow
card, was taken off by Zainal for S. Veenod.
Olivi tried for the spectacular again from outside the box in the 70th
minute, but Farizal never took his eyes off the curving ball and parried
Ten minutes before full-time, former Red Giant Amirulhadi Zainal was brought in for Lucero.
Five minutes later, Selangor centre-back Cornthwaite, seemingly
suffering from a knock, was taken off for Razman Roslan, for the final
substitution of the match.
In the dying minutes of the match, Andik, who had been practically
marked out of the game by the JDT defence, tried from outside the box
after dribbling towards the edge, but it went straight to Farizal.
The match ended 1-1, and it went straight to the penalty shootout, to
determine the cup winner. Recently, the Southern Tigers had been
knocked out of the AFC Champions League play-off by Thailand's
Muangthong United through penalty shootout, when they failed to convert
all of their first three penalty kicks. However they managed to avoid a
repeat of the incident against Selangor, although they needed nine
rounds to settle the score.
In the end, it was their recent controversial transfer target Azrif
who 'helped' the home side capture the cup, when he sent his penalty
wide even though Farizal already went the wrong way.
Selangor may have felt relieved at snatching a tricky league point
from JDT, but surely it was JDT who could claim to be jubilant at the
end of the night, after lifting the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Cup.
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