Southeast Asia Malaysia

FELDA End M-League Tenure on a Whimper

FELDA United’s Malaysia Cup adventure was cut short in the first hurdle after the recently relegated Liga Super Malaysia side were comprehensively beaten by newly crowned Liga Premier Malaysia champions Penang FA 3-1 at the City Stadium in George Town on Friday night. The Fighters, who were kicked out of the M-League due to a lack of a strong financial foundation from their new investors on October 31st, went out on a whimper in what potentially could be their last official football match in a while as Penang’s Casagrande, Amer Azahar, and Lee Chang-hoon methodically tore FELDA apart with their goals.

With the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) standing firm on their decision to expel FELDA out of the M-League, the Fighters were determined to use the 2020 Malaysia Cup as the grand stage for their swansong. But first Nidzam Jamil’s men must overcome an excellent Penang side who had recently clinched their return to the Liga Super after a 3-year absence at their City Stadium.

And right off the bat, Penang showed that they are in charge of this encounter as Casagrande’s header struck the FELDA crossbar in the 5th minute. The Brazilian was not to be denied in the 37th minute though, attempting another header after being fed the ball by Azmi Muslim. This time, the ball looped its way past FELDA goalkeeper Zarif Irfan and into the goal, opening the scoreline for the hosts.

FELDA immediately attempted to hit back in the 38th minute through Singaporean attacker Khairul Amri, however Penang custodian Samuel Sommerville was on hand to safeguard the Panthers’ goal, ensuring a 1-0 lead for Penang going into the break.

Two minutes into the second half and it was FELDA who started off on the right foot, with former Suphanburi FC and NorthEast United man Nicholas Velez responding the quickest to Ryutaro Megumi flicking the ball within the Penang penalty box. Argentinian Velez then proceeded to easily beat Sommerville with a powerful shot that drew the scoreline level, giving FELDA some hope that they could chase this game and turn things around.

Sadly for FELDA those hopes were dashed in the 62nd minute, after FELDA defender Haziq Puad was unable to intercept a cross from Penang’s Al-Hafiz Harun, allowing Amer to simply slide the ball past an onrushing Zarif for Penang’s second. Lee then clinched qualification to the quarterfinals for Penang in the 75th minute with a superb free-kick that curved its way past Zarif, although Lee’s teammate Rafael Vitor felt that he had done the decisive touch that led into Penang’s third goal of the game.

Nonetheless, Penang managed to retain their 3-1 advantage over FELDA, strolling their way into the Malaysia Cup quarterfinal at the expense of the Fighters. As Penang celebrated their well-deserved win, FELDA faces a period of uncertainty as they hope for a miracle that would allow them to compete in the 2021 season.

Friday’s other Malaysia Cup ties saw Kedah FA surviving a second half fightback from fellow Liga Super side Pahang FA to edge their opponents 3-2 at the Darul Aman Stadium in Alor Setar, while defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim squeaked past Liga Premier side Kuching FC 1-0 at the Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Johor Bahru, thanks to a first half goal from 18-year old youngster Arif Aiman.

Two more Malaysia Cup matches will be played on Saturday, with Terengganu FC hosting Petaling Jaya City in an all-Liga Super clash at the former’s Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium and Perak FA welcoming Liga Premier side Kelantan United to the Perak Stadium in Ipoh, Perak.