Southeast Asia Malaysia

Jubilation in the Capital as City Boys Stun Southern Tigers to Win 2021 Malaysia Cup Title

It was the night of the underdogs at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Tuesday night, as unfancied Kuala Lumpur City clinched their first major silverware in 32 years after silencing heavy favorites Johor Darul Ta’zim 2-0 in the 2021 Malaysia Cup final. The triumph ensured a beautiful end for Kuala Lumpur’s 2021 – having started the season as one of the two teams freshly promoted into the Liga Super Malaysia, Bojan Hodak’s men ended their campaign with not only a strong 6th placed finish in the league but also cup glory and a ticket to the 2022 AFC Cup group stage.

Having been relegated on a whimper and with only four wins to their name in the 2019 Liga Super season, Kuala Lumpur made good use of their exile into the second-tier Liga Premier and successfully rebuilt themselves. The City Boys were promoted at the first time of asking at the end of the 2020 season and they continue their ascendancy underneath former Kelantan FA, JDT, and PSM Makassar head coach Hodak, posting a number of strong performances as they planted themselves firmly in the Liga Super’s top half.

Kuala Lumpur’s solid performance throughout 2021 was built upon their impeccable form within the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. Since a 2-1 defeat at the KLFA Stadium at the hands of UKM FC in the 2019 Malaysia Challenge Cup, the City Boys have yet to taste any defeat in matches played at Cheras – a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Kuching FA at the end of the 2020 Liga Premier season notwithstanding as the match was played at Melaka United’s Hang Jebat Stadium.

In keeping their fortress safe from any opposition in the 2021 Liga Super season, Hodak’s men had claimed the scalps of Perak FC, Sri Pahang FC, Terengganu FC, and Kedah Darul Aman, while frustrating JDT and Klang Valley Derby rivals Selangor FC to no end.

Kuala Lumpur’s ominous home form was also carried over to the 2021 Malaysia Cup, where the City Boys once again took out Sri Pahang, before blasting Penang FC, Sarawak United, and even Selangor out of the water. Melaka United were forced into a draw that lasted throughout both legs of their semifinal clash, setting KL up for a tough finale against JDT in the showpiece match of the Malaysia Cup’s 100th anniversary.

Defending Malaysia Cup champions JDT were expected to defend the title that they’ve won in 2019, suffering only two brief blips throughout their current cup campaign with a goalless draw away at Kedah in the quarterfinal and a 1-1 draw away at Terengganu in the semis. Taking on a side that had started the season with the tag of being “newly-promoted” and having yet to lose to them in their two Liga Super encounters this season, the task of defending their Malaysia Cup title was as easy as pie for JDT.

What the Southern Tigers didn’t account for was the magic of Cheras being spilled over to the Bukit Jalil on Tuesday night.

Grasping the underdog tag tightly and with the whole of Kuala Lumpur behind their back, the City Boys of KL braved waves upon waves of intense JDT pressure, who had deployed their heavy hitters in Bergson, Safawi Rasid, and Leandro Velazquez for the occasion. Filipino goalkeeper Kevin Ray Mendoza was in fine form between the Kuala Lumpur sticks as he bravely defended his goal from each shot coming at him, while the City Boys’ backline – consisting of Daniel Ting, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Kenny Pallraj, and Kamal Azizi – soaked up everything that JDT threw at them.

And when Kuala Lumpur received the initiative to fight back, they struck JDT real hard.

Catching the JDT defense off-guard, Kuala Lumpur drew first blood in the 65th minute. A pin-point cross from Partiban Janasekaran was tapped into Farizal Marlias’ goal from point-blank range by Zhafri Yahya, and the man who had devoted himself to Kuala Lumpur since 2017 successfully gave his team the advantage.

As JDT chased for an equalizer, Benjamin Mora’s Southern Tigers instead receive a knockout blow in the 74th minute. Hadin Azman managed to deliver a superb ball to KL captain Paulo Josue, with the Brazilian controlling the ball with his chest before smashing home a powerful volley past Farizal to secure the win for Kuala Lumpur.

A crestfallen Mora and his dejected JDT players could only watch as Josue led his teammates into the trophy podium and held the Malaysia Cup trophy aloft above his head at the end of the match.

The 2021 title was Kuala Lumpur’s fourth Malaysia Cup trophy and their first piece of major silverware after a tumultuous, 32-year long drought, in a period that saw the City Boys fall all the way into the third tier of Malaysian football in 2013 before being entangled in a match-fixing scandal on the same year.

With the 2021 Malaysia FA Cup being abolished due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kuala Lumpur’s 2021 Malaysia Cup triumph earned them a ticket to the group stages of the 2022 AFC Cup where they will represent Malaysia alongside 2021 Liga Super runners-up Kedah. This will be Kuala Lumpur’s first continental bow since the 1994/95 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, where KL beat Indonesia’s Gelora Dewata (now Deltras Sidoarjo) en route to the competition’s quarterfinal, where the City Boys were eliminated by Thailand’s now-defunct TOT SC after extra-time.