Kedah, Pahang to contest Malaysia FA Cup final after semifinal wins
Pahang will meet Kedah in a high-quality Malaysia FA Cup final on May 20 after both Malaysia Super League sides prevailed on the road against Premier League opponents in second-leg semifinals on Saturday evening.
Kedah brushed aside Terengganu 3-0 in Kuala Terengganu for a 4-0 aggregate victory.
Their reward is a showdown against Pahang, who saw off Negeri Sembilan 2-1 for a 3-1 success overall.
The Canaries scored through first-half goals from Liridon Krasniqi and Ken Ilso, before Sandro Da Silva completed the rout two minutes into the second half.
It was the perfect response from Kedah, who saw their former coach Tan Cheng Hoe resign last month, with a view to joining the national set up.
The victory also buried the heartache of their exit from the last four in the competition last year to eventual champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT)
At a capacity Paroi Stadium, Negeri knew an early goal would put their visitors under pressure. But they were dealt an early blow when Pahang struck in the sixth minute.
It was a fairly simple set-piece goal, orchestrated by Ahmad Syamim Yahya's curling cross, finding Heo Jae-won.
The South Korean was left unchallenged to power home a thumping header to give Pahang a 1-0 lead, and a 2-0 advantage on aggregate.
It was Heo's third goal of the season, and it was an ominous sign as Pahang had won the previous two times he scored.
Negeri were stung, but responded by pressing forward in search of an equaliser. Wan Azraie had to be alert to tip away a Lee Tuck free kick from distance in the 27th minute.
Three minutes later, the Jangs had an even better opportunity to haul themselves level.
Tuck was once again their danger man, fizzing in a low cross from the left that was centimetres away from connecting with Izuan Salahuddin's boot.
The last chance of the first half fell to Negeri, with Tuck again in the heart of things. The English forward floated a delicious free kick into the danger zone, but his cross was tamely headed by Annas Rahmat into Wan Azraie's arms.
The hosts continued with their aerial pressing game after the break, and Marco Simic came close with a header.
Their relentless crosses into the Pahang penalty box finally paid dividends with a 68th-minute equaliser.
Tuck was once again the supplier. He floated in an inch-perfect cross for Bruno Suzuki to bury home into the bottom corner, sparking hopes of a Negeri turnaround.
Noor Hazrul came close to dragging his side level on aggregate. But Wan Azraie was equal to his free kick by getting down low and fast to parry the ball to safety in the 80th minute.
Simic would get a chance two minutes from time from close range, but he was closed down by an alert Muslim Ahmad.
Noor Hazrul kept the intensified Negeri pressure with another swerving effort that just whistled past Wan Azraie's goal in the 89th minute.
But Pahang effectively killed off any hopes of a Negeri fightback after substitute Christie Jayaseelan turned home a cross from Matheus Alves on a counter attack for a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Pahang: Wan Azraie Wan Teh (GK), Faisal Rosli, Heo Jae-Won (Afif Amiruddin 53'), Muslim Ahmad, Matthew Davies (C), Francisco Insa, Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Mohamadou Sumareh, Ahmad Syamim Yahya, Wan Zaharulnizam (Christie Jayaseelan 78'), Matheus Alves
Negeri Sembilan: Saiful Amar (GK), Annas Rahmat, Shazlan Alias (Faderin Kadir 83'), Arman Fareez, Noor Hazrul, Lee Tuck, Bruno Suzuki, Marko Simic, Faizal Abu Bakar, Izuan Salahuddin, Nemanja Vidic
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.