* Gustavo Lopez gives Terengganu lifeline with away goal in 1-2 defeat to Lions XII
* Champs Pahang struggle to a 1-0 win over Kelantan
Defending champions Pahang scored an early second minute goal through Argentine striker Matias Conti for a 1-0 win over Kelantan in the first-leg FA Cup semi-final at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on Saturday. But that victory may not be good enough for the Elephants when the second-leg is played in Kota Bahru on May 16.
At the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore, Terengganu lost 1-2 to Lions XII but Gustavo Lopez scored on 39 minutes might yet turned to be a valuable a lifeline to the Turtles when the two sides clash again in the return-leg at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium on May 16.
Incidentally, Brazilian striker Paulo Rangel will also be back from a one-match suspension which kept him out from the first-leg.
Just like the match in Kuantan, the damage was done in the first-half with the Singapore outfit grabbing a 2-0 lead in a four minute blitz which began in the 29th minute with Khairul Nizam Kamal found the net. Four minutes later Faris Ramli whipped in a left footed shot from a cross on the right as Terengganu struggled to cope on the artificial turf.
However, the never say die visitors put themselves back in the picture when Argentine dead ball specialist Gustavo Lopez drove home a thunderous freekick from just outside the penalty – giving goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud no chance at all. Izwan was left punching the ground in frustration.
The away goal not only comes in handy for Terengganu but also threw a lifeline for the Turtles who will welcome the return of their Brazilian ace Paulo Rangel who sat out the first-leg to serve a one-match suspension for two yellow card offences.
Pahang, who lead the Super League after their 1-0 win over Perak will find themselves in a tough situation in the return-leg as they will take the field against Kelantan after playing Global FC in their final Group G match in the AFC Cup competition in Manila on May 13. The Elephants need a draw against Global FC to finish second in the group behind South China FC to advance to the Round of 16.
The match was only a minute old when Matias Conti struck when he picked up a pass from Nigerian Dickson Nwakaeme to toe the ball into the far corner as the Kelantan backline was just settling into the match.
If the home fans were expecting Pahang to ride home from the early goal it turned out to be a disappointment as Kelantan checked the early setback and played a better organised game after the break. However, Kelantan were not able to get the much needed away goal but still walked off the pitch with their heads held high.
“We came with the hope of getting an away goal but it was disappointing not to have scored in Kuantan. There is still another half of the battle to be won and we will look for the return leg with optimism,” said Kelantan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah.
His Pahang counterpart Zainal Abidin Hassan is aware that his team faces a mammoth task in Kota Bahru and the tight schedule could spell danger in the return-leg.
Fatigue is Zainal’s main worry.
FA CUP SEMI-FINAL RESULTS (FIRST-LEG MAY 9)
PAHANG 1 KELANTAN 0
LIONS XII 2 TERENGGANU 1
(RETURN-LEG MATCHES WILL BE PLAYED ON MAY 16)
KELANTAN vs PAHANG
(Sultan Mohd IV, Stadium, Kota Bahru)
TERENGGANU vs LIONS XII
(Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium, Kuala Terengganu)