Southeast Asia Malaysia

Former Borneo Man Alves Power Kedah to AFC Cup Spot

Former Borneo FC man Renan Alves was the hero for Kedah FA on Sunday night as his second half header guided the Red Eagles to a 3-2 victory over Perak FA at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh in the final matchweek of the 2020 Liga Super Malaysia season. Victory over the Bos Gaurus meant that Kedah finished the Liga Super season on 2nd place, earning themselves a ticket to the 2021 AFC Cup group stages in the process.

The buildup towards the Matchweek 11 showdown at Ipoh was focused on how a win for either Perak or Kedah would ensure them a spot in next year’s AFC Cup as Liga Super runners-up, with the two sides on 3rd and 2nd place respectively coming into Sunday’s match. As the higher-positioned team, Kedah had the slight edge over Perak, only having to avoid defeat against the Bos Gaurus to book their first AFC Cup appearance since 2009. Perak, on the other hand, had to win their match against Kedah if they wish to qualify for the AFC Cup for the first time since 2005.

And it seems that Aidil Shahrin Sahak’s Kedah would be on course for silver medal glory, with Kpah Sherman outmuscling Idris Ahmad and outsmarting goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim to fire Kedah into a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. Fadzrul Danel then doubled Kedah’s lead in the 31st minute with an expertly-taken shot – the 22-year old’s first goal for Kedah since his winner in the 2019 Malaysian FA Cup final, which coincidentally was also against Perak.

Mehmet Durakovic’s Bos Gaurus would refuse to give up despite being two goals down though, and in the 42nd minute the home side managed to win themselves a penalty after Firdaus Saiyadi was brought down in the box by Rizal Ghazali. Shahrel Fikri stepped up to the plate and took the penalty, only to have his spot kick saved by Kedah goalie Azri Ghani. However, the referee requested for the penalty to be retaken, as Ghani had moved off his line too early when he saved Shahrel’s penalty. Perak’s Brazilian midfielder Leandro Dos Santos – standing in as captain as Shahrul Saad was suspended for Sunday’s clash – took over penalty duties from Shahrel for the second take, and he made no mistakes at all as Ghani was easily beaten with his powerful shot.

Leandro then came to Perak’s rescue again on the stroke of half-time, heading in Rafiuddin Roddin’s free-kick into Ghani’s goal. Leandro showed his aerial prowess in scoring Perak’s equalizer, out-jumping Renan for the ball before thumping it into the net with his head.

However, it was Renan who had the last laugh in the 63rd minute, as he made up for being unable to stop Leandro’s equalizer by scoring what turned out to be Kedah’s winning goal. Baddrol Bakhtiar, the Red Eagles’ long-serving captain, swung in a corner into a crowded Perak box. Renan managed to rose into the air the highest to smack the incoming ball into Hakim’s goal with his head, ensuring that Kedah would secure both the Liga Super silver medal and a ticket to the 2021 AFC Cup group stages.

Despite having their season plagued by financial issues and allegations of unpaid wages, specifically during the COVID-19 enforced suspension, Aidil and his Kedah men managed to respond to their ongoing problems in the most professional way possible, winning six out of their seven matches after the restart that secured them 2nd place in the Liga Super table.

Sunday’s other Matchweek 11 match saw Terengganu FC securing the Liga Super bronze medal after beating Pahang FA 2-1 at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium. Despite going behind in the 12th minute to a Nik Sharif Haseefy goal, the Turtles refused to give up and managed to turn the game around thanks to goals from Dominique Da Sylva and captain Lee Tuck, ensuring that Terengganu would finish 3rd in the conclusion of the 2020 Liga Super season.