Baddrol Bakhtiar sparks Kedah to Malaysia FA Cup over Pahang
Kedah cemented their credentials as Cup kings by capturing the 2017 Malaysia FA Cup with a 3-2 victory over 10-man Pahang in an exceptional final at a capacity Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday night.
Baddrol Bakhtiar's brace set Kedah on their way to the trophy after Ken Ilso had opened the scoring. But, despite a first-half red card to Kiko Insa, Pahang stayed in contention after goals to Heo Jae-won and Mohamadou Sumareh.
Kedah's title added to their 2016 Malaysia Cup success last October, and January's Charity Shield. Dating back to 2015, they have appeared in three of the last four major domestic finals, winning two of them.
2017 FA CUP FINAL | 20TH MAY 2017
Nidzam Adzha named an unchanged Kedah side from the team who beat Terengganu 3-0 in the semifinal, second leg last weekend.
Pahang boss Dollah gambled on new Argentine import Yamil Romero, who made his debut in the biggest game of his career.
Kedah, who had marginally bossed possession in the early stages, took a 20th-minute lead through Ken Ilso.
The Danish striker notched his fifth goal of the competition with a trademark Kedah finish.
Their architect was Baddrol Bakhtiar, whose sweeping diagonal pass found Syazwan Zainon on the left wing. The nippy winger jinked his way just outside the penalty zone, and fizzed in a low cross that met Ilso's chest from close range.
That goal gave Kedah spades of confidence, which almost translated into a second goal six minutes later. Sandro Da Silva, however, was unlucky to see his effort bounce off the frame of the woodwork on its way out.
Pahang were dealt a massive blow in the 33rd minute when their defensive midfielder Francisco Insa foolishly lunged into a nasty challenge on Rizal Ghazali.
Having already received a caution earlier, referee Nagor Amir had no qualms in producing another yellow to send the Spanish-born enforcer off for an early shower.
First-half stoppage time produced the most exciting three minutes of the Cup final.
Kedah looked to have put one hand on the trophy when Baddrol stroked home a low finish past Wan Azraie in the 48th minute.
But Pahang were back in the contest through a fortuitous finish, with the last kick of the half.
Defender Heo Jae-won, who had scored against Negeri Sembilan in the semifinal, swung a hopeful boot, and his shot took a deflection to loop over Ifwat Akmal and give Pahang a lifeline.
That goal reignited their fight, and the Elephants emerged hungry to find an equaliser after the break.
Ifwat had to be alert to tip away a speculative Matheus Alves effort in the 53rd minute, as Dollah's men kept pushing forward at every opportunity.
Wan Zaharulnizam was next to find space in the penalty box before Ifwat was quick off his line, as Pahang looked threatening, despite the man disadvantage.
The 40,000 Pahang fans were off their seats when Alves was left through on goal, but Khairul Helmi recovered just in time to make a timely intervention.
Pahang should have levelled in the 68th minute.
Mohamadou Sumareh's lovely cutback found an unmarked Yamil, but the youngster horribly fluffed his lines from close range.
And then their resolve was broken after 72 minutes, when Ilso turned provider for Baddrol to slot home from an acute angle to virtually seal the win.
Sumareh gave Pahang hope again in the 79th minute with a thumping downward header. But Kedah held on to claim a second consecutive trophy at Shah Alam.
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.