BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor were runners up of the 2020 Asia Challenge pre-season tournament, after they lost 4-2 on penalties to True Bangkok United at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday. The match, played on a pock-marked pitch due to a storm, had earlier ended in a goalless draw.
Selangor boss B. Satiananthan made minor changes to the starting line-up, utilising Syahmi Safari as a right flanker in place of Wan Zack Haikal, and his right back position was taken by A. Namathevan. Safuwan Baharudin started in midfield in place of Halim Saari, while K. Prabakaran returned to his usual position of left back, and Nicholas Swirad started as central defender.
The hosts and the Thais were tied on six points going into the match, the tournament affording an extra point for each goal scored.
Satiananthan's charges started the match brightly, a defensive mistake by the Thais seeing Ifedayo Olusegun through on goal within the first 10 minutes. The Nigerian forward however did not have his shooting boots on and missed the chance to put the Red Giants in front early.
But the Bangkok Angels soon settled down, and stopped giving the hosts a lot of space in their own half.
A game that should have pitted two attacking-minded sides was however negatively impacted by two factors. A storm descended on the city of Shah Alam hours earlier, rendering the infamous pitch soggy and uneven, and disrupting any serious passing moves by either side. The earlier match, between Persib Bandung and Hanoi FC, had to be concluded at halftime with Persib announced as the winners, as they had been leading 2-0.
Secondly was the dubious refereeing of the man with the whistle, Razlan Jofri Ali. He made several dubious calls that favoured the hosts, which caused tempers to flare among the United line-up and bench.
Satiananthan's charges used the circumstance to vary their attacking moves, utilising more aerial passes than what the fans may have been used to last season, to send the ball to their flankers. This decision mostly worked, but they were let down by their attackers' poor finishing.
The defence, led by recently-appointed Taylor Regan stil looked far from comfortable, especially against the Thai players who are technically better, but they managed to deny the visitors from scoring.
The game was further hampered in the second half, when both sides made multiple substitutions, but Selangor's youngsters got a look in nevertheless. When the match ended 0-0 and the winners had to be decided through a penalty shootout, the boys were made to take the spot kicks.
Selangor goalkeeper Khairulazhan Khalid who came on late in the game initially saved Nattawut Suksum's penalty, but his opposing number Warut Makemusik would top his heroics. Makemusik would save Zahril Azri and Halim's spot kicks, to help the Thais win the first edition of the tournament.
The issue with the Shah Alam Stadium pitch is not a recent one, but this season it will be even more obvious. The gaps between games will be much shorter, which means that it will take a worse beating. The club management must look into it, if they want the team to play the sort of football that will help them qualify for continental competitions.
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