Two goals in the last 15 minutes saw Terengganu overcome stout defending by Kuala Lumpur City to win 2-0 at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium on Saturday as the Super League returned after a one-month hiatus.
Habib Haroon and Manuel Ott struck well-taken goals from outside the box to break City Boys’ hearts in a pulsating encounter in which the home team had far more attempts on goal than the visitors.
Goalkeeper Kevin Mendoza kept Kuala Lumpur in the game with a string of fine saves as coach Bojan Hodak named a side without three key players in a concerning development ahead of the start of the AFC Cup campaign next week.
The result lifted Terengganu, playing their first match since the second round of the FA Cup on April 29, up to provisional sixth place in the Super League standings with nine points from five matches while Kuala Lumpur remained in fifth spot with 13 points after suffering a fifth defeat in 10 matches.
With Romel Morales, Kenny Pallraj and J. Partiban sidelined through injury, Hodak restored Akram Mahinan and Hadin Azman to the side in two changes from the team which defeated Sarawak United 2-1 on May 17, before the international break. Paulo Josue started as the centre-forward, flanked by Hadin and Kevin Koubemba on the right and left respectively, while Zhafri Yahya pulled the strings in midfield with support from Akram and Ryan Lambert.
Right-back Kamal Azizi Zabri returned to his home state to face Terengganu as a Malaysia Cup winner and marked the moment by reaching a personal milestone of 100 Super League matches and 150 appearances in all competitions since his 2014 professional debut.
On the occasion of Kuala Lumpur’s 900th league match across all divisions since 1979, the City Boys travelled to a place where victories in league matches have been scarce in a quarter of a century since Adilson Roque scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 win over Terengganu at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in a 1997 Premier 1 match. Since then, Kuala Lumpur had not beaten Terengganu in an away league encounter in 14 attempts across all divisions although the City side enjoyed two away wins in the Malaysia Cup in 2010 and 2018 and lifted the 1999 FA Cup in Kuala Terengganu via a penalty shootout in the final.
Just three minutes after referee Nafeez Abd Wahab got the game underway, Zhafri had a shout for a penalty waved away after a challenge by Terengganu defender Hairiey Hakim Mamat.
Terengganu forced three corner kicks in the first 10 minutes to no avail but the Turtles almost took the lead in the 15th minute when they rocked Mendoza’s upright. Left-back Hairiey suddenly found himself in acres of space after getting past Kamal and he let fly from the edge of the box only for the ball to come back off the far post.
Three minutes later Tchetche Kipre missed an opportunity for Terengganu when he miscued right in front of Mendoza after Kpah Sherman slipped the ball past City defender Giancarlo Gallifuoco.
Josue had the ball in the Terengganu net in the 20th minute but he was clearly in an offside position from Zhafri’s pass before Kamal’s looping cross five minutes later bounced off the crossbar and back into play, to the relief of the Terengganu goalkeeper Suhaimi Husin.
A low effort by Kipre was easily gathered by Mendoza, who then turned Ott’s attempt from outside the box around the post as Kuala Lumpur survived a period of Terengganu pressure.
Josue was presented with a great opportunity in the 33rd minute when Zhafri’s cutback allowed the captain to skip past the goalkeeper but he ran out of room to get the ball clear of the covering defender.
Mendoza denied Kipre again in the 42nd minute from point-blank range as Haroon played a short free-kick into the box before the goalkeeper stopped a low effort by Faisal Halim, who then tried a shot from an acute angle which flew over the bar to bring the first half to a close.
Neither side made changes for the start of the second half as Zhafri had a go from distance which forced Suhaimi to punch the ball away.
With Terengganu pressing hard for a goal just before the hour-mark, they nearly opened the scoring as a pass by Hadin Azman put Kamal in trouble. Faisal nicked the ball and it needed Irfan Zakaria’s interception to prevent it from ending up in the back of the net. From the subsequent corner, Mendoza palmed the ball clear from Kipre’s fierce angled drive before Ott slammed the rebound off the far post.
In response, Kuala Lumpur nearly took the lead against the run of play when Zhafri advanced with the ball into the Terengganu half before spraying a pass wide to the right for Hadin to angle a low shot which a spreadeagled Suhaimi deflected with his foot.
Zhafri, Josue and Terengganu centre-back Pape Diakite all entered the referee’s book for separate incidents within minutes of each other around the hour mark. Kamal and Faisal were also flashed the yellow card after squaring up to each other.
Hodak yanked Hadin off and sent youngster Haqimi Azim Rosli on, taking the role of centre-forward in a tactical reshuffle with Zhafri going out wide right and Josue dropping into midfield.
Diakite tried his luck from range with a drive that Mendoza was equal to but the Kuala Lumpur defence was finally breached in the 75th minute.
Hairiey’s deep cross from the left was headed clear by Declan Lambert but only as far as Haroon, who let fly from 20 metres out as the ball screamed past Mendoza for the Terengganu midfielder’s first goal of the season.
Fakrul Aiman Sidid replaced Ryan Lambert soon after but an error by Akram led to Terengganu’s second goal six minutes later. Akram carelessly gave the ball away in the middle of the park which allowed Kipre to march forward and after a few touches around the Kuala Lumpur box by three Terengganu players, Ott beat his fellow Philippines international Mendoza with a low shot from the top of the area.
Terengganu vs Kuala Lumpur City: 1 Mendoza (GK), 4 Kamal Azizi, 9 Gallifuoco, 12 Declan (25 Anwar 86’), 17 Irfan, 6 Ryan (Fakrul Aiman 79’), 27 Hadin (37 Haqimi Azim 67′), 8 Zhafri, 28 Paulo Josue (C), 11 Koubemba
Yellow cards: Zhafri 60′, Josue 61′, Kamal 67′, Akram 84′
Subs Not Used: 20 Azim Al Amin (GK), 10 Safee, 22 Nik Umar, 29 Arif Shaqirin, 33 Muhammad, 88 Ridhwan
Referees: Nafeez Abd Wahab; Assistant 1: Yusri Muhamad; Assistant 2: Mohairi Mohamed; Fourth official: Almi Abdullah
OUR HERO OF THE MATCH: KEVIN MENDOZA
Mendoza made six saves in the first half alone and had it not been for the goalkeeper who was playing in his 32nd consecutive Super League match, KL might have been out of it by half-time
To watch the highlights of this match, please click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20TjtHcAHZI
To watch the complete Terengganu vs KL City match on 18/6/2022 (Super League), please click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1JJEwVK4-E