Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kelantan come through in thriller

IT was the stuff that dreams are made of for Kelantan or nightmares, in Terengganu's case, when the former booked a place in the FA Cup final with a 6-5 aggregate win in Kuala Terengganu yesterday.

Kelantan, who won the first leg tie 4-1 in Kota Baru, looked dead and buried after Terengganu managed to score four goals and with only seconds remaining in injury time.

But just when referee Suhaizi Shukri was about to blow for the full time, Kelantan won a free kick just outside Terengganu's penalty box and captain Badri Radzi steered the ball in the direction of defender Obina Nwaneri who chested it down before slotting the ball into the back of the net to take the match into extra time.

Just as in Kota Baru, Terengganu started the second-leg strongly and only after four minutes defender Vincent Bikana gave the homeside the lead via a free kick which sailed into goal without being touched by any player including Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.

Striker Manaf Mamat, who was at the end of G. Puaneswaran's cross in the 26th minute, headed in Terengganu's second which sent the 15,000 capacity crowd at Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium into a frenzy.

Ashaari Shamsuddin had a great chance to make it 3-0 just before the break but his shot was blocked by Khairul. Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak brought in Dickson Nwakaeme at the start of the second half but the Nigerian striker, who made a big impact in the first-leg match, could not do much with Terengganu looking hungrier for more goals.

In 70th minute, Terengganu found their third through Effa Owona, back from injury, and the Cameroonian striker made no mistake when connecting Puaneswaran's cross.

The three goals ought to be have been enough for Terengganu to qualify for the finals on the away goals rule but Manaf Mamat made it four with a simple tap-in from Ashaari's cross just after the fourth official indicated five minutes of injury time.

Just as the Kelantan fans were filing out of the stadium, Owona received his red card for second bookable offence -- also for dissent -- and Terengganu were left with ten men. Nwaneri then became Kelantan's hero by scoring a late goal to force extra time.

Things went from bad to worse for Terengganu when after five minutes into extra time, Manaf was red-carded for retaliating against Farisaham Ismail following a foul.
Down to nine, the hosts were at a disadvantage and although they kept Kelantan from scoring the first half of extra time, they had no answer when Nwakaeme struck again from close range one minute before the end to take Kelantan to the finals.

Hodak admitted that Terengganu were the better team for most part of the match but he was, nonetheless, full of praise for his players who never gave up. "Unlike in Kota Baru, we could not get out of third gear in Kuala Terengganu but in the end, we proved we were good enough to navigate our way through a very tricky situation," said Hodak.

Terengganu coach E. Elavarasan could not hide his disappointment and said a number of the decisions by the match officials did not go Terengganu's way and they paid a heavy price.
"But then again, whoever says life is fair?" he said. By Zainuddin Muhammad

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