Muhammad Nabil Azizul saved SMK Zaba the blues at home in Negeri Sembilan when he replied late in the first half to draw Kelantan’s SMK Putera 1-1 in the first leg, semi-finals of the Ministry of Education League Cup (MELC) Under-17 on Saturday.
“We could not field our best eleven because of suspensions and that is why we were not too steady defensively,” said SMK Zaba coach Bahrom Mohd Tahir after the match.
“But we will be at our best for the return tie and I believe that we can play even better then. I’m hoping for a good field when we play in Kota Bahru (next week) as that will facilitate our style. But we are quite confident nonetheless.”
In an evenly contested affair at the SMK Zaba Mini Stadium, it was the visiting Kelantanese side who pressed the homesters hard in the opening quarter before clinching the opener through Mohamad Norkhairul Amri Sabarudin in the 17th minute.
But buoyed by the feverish home support from the stands, SMK Zaba did not take too long to grab the equalizer when Nabil found the space and time to slot the ball home in the 37th minute.
While the away draw might have given Kelantan coach Rizalman Hassan plenty to smile, at the same time too he admitted that he is worried for the return tie considering that two of his key players will not be available due to suspensions.
Nik Akif Shahiran Nik Mat picked up a yellow card in the 73rd minute – his second in two matches – while Ezzam Azimy Zailany received a direct red four minutes to the end.
“The suspensions are worrisome but at least we have an away goal from this match which can be useful for the return tie,” added Rizalman.
“We will be making some changes for the next match and hopefully the lads can be a lot sharper than what they have shown here in Kuala Pilah.
“We created at least six chances but only managed to find the back of the net once which is certainly not good at all.”
In the meantime, it was not only SMK Zaba who suffered a draw at home where Bukit Jalil Sports School were also held to a disappointing 2-2 deadlock by SMK Seberang Temerloh of Pahang.
Mohd Izwan Iskandar Gazali put Bukit Jalil in front after 19 minutes before
SMK Seberang Temerloh replied with two goals from Mohamad Aiman Haqimi Mohamad Naziri (22nd minute) and Muhammad Nor Amirul Mohd Nizam (25th minute) for them to take a 2-1 lead at the break.
But Wan Alif Aiman Rosmaidi’s goal just eight minutes after the restart gave Bukit Jalil the hard fought draw for the return tie.
RESULTS – SEMI-FINALS, First leg
SMK Zaba (NEGERI SEMBILAN) 1
SMK Putera (KELANTAN) 1
Bukit Jalil Sports School 2
SMK Seberang Temerloh (PAHANG) 2