Rizal the hero as Kedah beat Selangor on pens in Malaysia Cup final
Rizal Ghazali turned hero for Kedah in a rain-soaked Malaysia Cup final, giving them the lead before firing the winning spot kick as the Canaries overcame Selangor 6-5 on penalties, following a 1-1 draw at Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday night.
The dramatic finale stretched past midnight, but Kedah fans were singing in the rain as they celebrated a first Malaysia Cup triumph in eight years.
The victory also avenged their 2-0 loss to the Red Giants in the 2015 final.
As expected, the opening minutes saw a cagey start, with both sides choosing to play it safe.
Selangor had their first short on target after 12 minutes, as Andik Vermansyah fired straight at Ifwat Akmal following Patrick Wleh's cheeky layoff. Kedah were beginning to warm up, and had a chance of their through Rizal. He skied high from a promising position after Syazwan Zainon's well-placed cutback from the left wing.
The Canaries looked to have earned a penalty after Shane Smeltz was hacked down in the penalty box in the 30th minute, but referee Amirul Izwan Yacob's decision was overruled by his assistant for offside.
The New Zealand import, who has netted five in the tournament, should have given Kedah the lead five minutes before the break, but could only direct his shot at Khairul Azhan from close range.
The 79,000 fans, who had packed into Shah Alam Stadium, demanded a livelier second half after a rather muted opening 45 minutes, and they weren't disappointed.
Selangor exploded into life after the restart, and only Amirul Hisyam's goal-line clearance from Andik's effort kept them from surging ahead.
Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was the next guilty party, shooting wide from a great position after Wleh had done well to out muscle Bang Seung-Hwan to tee him up on the edge of the box.
Kedah absorbed that pressure to shock their illustrious opponents by taking a 52nd minute lead.
It came from the unlikeliest of source, but Rizal had the world on his feet after his effort from 25-metres took a huge deflection off S. Veenod, It sailed high into the net, despite Khairul Azhan's valiant attempt to tip it away.
To their credit, Selangor immediately responded and were level on the hour mark.
It came through none other than their 2015 Malaysia Cup hero Hazwan, who coolly finished past Ifwat after receiving another Wleh layoff.
Hazwan had been off the pitch seconds prior to his goal after receiving treatment for an injury . Liridon Krasniqi had one final chance to win it for Kedah in regulation time. But his dipping free kick found the base of the post as the game headed into extra time.
Torrential rain poured down at Shah Alam soon after, and the wet surface slowed proceedings as both team did not have clear-cut chances to nick it.
In the penalty shootout, after Smeltz, Azmi Muslim, Hafiz Kamal, Amirul Hisyam and Rizal Fahmi missed, it was written in the stars that Rizal should win it for Kedah. He did just that, sending Khairul the wrong way to send Kedah fans into delirium.
Selangor: Khairul Azhan Khalid (GK), Azmi Muslim (Raimi Mohd Nor 91'), Andik Vermansyah (C), Patrick Wleh, Saiful Ridzuwan Selamat (Hafiz Kamal 73'), Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (Mauro Olivi 95'), Bunyamin Umar (Razman Roslan 74'), Rizal Fahmi, Ugo Ukah, S. Veenod, R. Gopinathan
Kedah: Ifwat Akmal (GK), Syawal Nordin (Khairul Helmi 31'), Bang Seung-Hwan, Baddrol Bakhtiar (C), Liridion Krasniqi, Thiago Augusto (Halim Saari 68'), Shane Smeltz, Rizal Ghazali, Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik, Syazwan Zainon (Farhan Roslan 110'), Azmeer Yusof
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.