Pahang beat Johor Darul Takzim on penalties to retain Malaysia Cup
Pahang FA survived a dramatic 5-3 penalty shootout against Johor Darul Takzim FC (JDT) to be crowned Malaysia Cup champions for a second consecutive year after their FA Cup victory earlier this year.
The defending champions started the game well with winger R. Gopinathan tormenting JDT right-back Mahali Jasuli on numerous occasions and it was this exact battle in the 16th minute that saw the arrival of the first goal.
Mahali brought down Gopi to give the Elephants a free-kick from which Azidan Sarudin found an unmarked Dickson Nwakaeme who thumped his header past Norazlan Razali to give Pahang the lead.
Both teams had chances but the Southern Tigers were finally rewarded for their persistence when Mahali put in a lovely corner which was cleared by the Pahang defence only for Jorge Pereyra Diaz to slam home the rebound.
JDT scored their second just three minutes later when captain Razman Roslan handled the ball in the box and Luciano Figueroa stepped up to send stopper Khairul Azhan Khalid the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.
The second period started in similar fashion as the first, with both sides playing some fluid attacking football but failing to capitalise on some slack defending at both ends.
It was not until the 68th minute when the game swung JDT's way when defender Mohd Saiful Nizam was sent off for stamping on Amri Yahyah to hand Zainal Abidin's team an uphill struggle.
Despite being down to 10 men, Pahang soldiered on and it was Nwakaeme who saved the day again with his second goal of the game, after an intricate move involving Hafiz Kamal, Matias Conti and Damion Stewart saw the Nigerian slam home to level the game.
JDT seemed shellshocked by proceedings and Pahang held on tight for the final whistle to force 30 minutes of extra time.
Both sides were handed notable chances to claim the trophy, with the best chance falling at the feet of JDT's Diaz in the 98th minute when Amirul Hadi set him up only for the Argentine to fluff his shot from two yards.
But neither broke the deadlock and it was down to penalties. Both sides scored their first three spot kicks -- JDT: Figueroa, Diaz and Hariss Harun; Pahang: Razman, Stewart, Shahrizan Salleh -- before former Fulham defender Zesh Rehman slotted in Pahang's fourth.
Up stepped Malaysia international forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, but he sent a meek spot-kick into the arms of Khairul to send the War Elephants fans into a rapturous applause. Hafiz Kamal then puffed out his chest and calmly placed a right-footed effort into the top right corner to hand Pahang the trophy.
With their fourth Malaysia Cup title in the club's history in the bag, Pahang will now join Malaysian Super League champions JDT in the 2015 Asian Football Confederation Cup group stages.