* Pahang see red as Razman Roslan red carded
* Gopinathan scores late winner after Yadanarbon muff a penalty
Pahang survived at the Mandalar Thiri Stadium in Mandalay on Wednesday to come off 3-2 winners in their opening Group G match in the AFC Cup – thanks to an 89th minute strike by R. Gopinathan after Myanmar champions Yadanarbon FC muffed a 70th minute penalty.
That was after Pahang defender Razman Roslan was given the sack in the 54th minute for bringing down Shine Thuya inside the box. From the ensuing spot kick Yanadarbon’s Djedje Max Djawa made it 2-2 as the Elephants surrendered their 2-0 lead after only 12 minutes of play with Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme on target with a brace.
Pahang seemed to be in cruise control with Nwakaeme finding space each time he was on the ball to score two quick goals while the homesters struggled to cope with the hot pace set by the visitors. But Pahang’s early firepower fizzled out as the match progressed and failed to add to their tally.
Yadanarbon recovered from the early shock and proved to be a handful for Pahang – leaving coach Zainal Abidin Hassan restless on the bench. The homesters came charging from all angles. It was only a matter of time Yadanarbon scored.
And it was Pahang’s tough tackling burly Jamaican defender Damion Stewart who threw Yadanarbon the lifeline when he turned the ball into his own net past a bewildered skipper and goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid in the 41st minute in trying to cut out a raid..Pahang led 2-1 at halftime.
When Razman was sent off for an early shower the writing was on the wall as Ivory Coast hitman Max Djawa blasted an unstoppable penalty and it was 2-2 on 57 minutes. The fight was on. Pahang were a man short and under pressure while Yadanarbon grew in confidence and were always threatening.
All looked lost for Pahang when under pressure Saifulnizam Miswan gave away a penalty in trying to stop Win Naing Soe from taking a shot at goal from inside the box. But Lady luck smiled on Pahang as Max Djawa ballooned the ball over the bar which allowed the Elephants to escape and stay alive in their opening match and also for a place in the Round of 16.
The Pahang backline was forced to work overtime while Matias Conti, Gopinathan and Nwakaeme could not turn the chances they created into goal. But Gopinathan, finally made up for all his misses with a well drilled right footer into the far corner past the out stretched hands of goalkeeper Thiha Si Thu just when a draw looked as the best result.
Pahang’s next two matches in the Group will be at home – against Global FC of the Philippines on March 11 and against Hong Kong’s South China on March 18.
In another Group G match played at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila on Wednesday, South China, established as strong favourites to top the group with a 6-1 whitewash of Global FC.