Hairuddin Omar's spectacular goal wins Malaysia Cup for Negeri Sembilan
Hairuddin Omar's spectacular half-volley four minutes from time earned Negri Sembilan their third Malaysia Cup title as they came from behind to edge Terengganu 2-1 at the Shah Alam Stadium yesterday.
Hairuddin, who was named Man-of-the-Match, timed his run brilliantly in the box before reaching out to captain Shukor Adan's cross to score from close range after S. Kunanlan's in-swinging cross was misjudged by Terengganu keeper Sharbinee Allawee before hitting the back of the net for the equaliser in the 80th minute.
Ashaari Samsuddin had put Terengganu in the lead when he rifled home a pass from Manaf Mamat, in the 59th minute.
As for Negri coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, his fourth title as a coach was a belated birthday present for himself as he turned 59 on Tuesday.
"What can I say about this win? When I took over as coach seven months ago, Negri were not doing well...and today (yesterday) they are Malaysia Cup champions. I am proud of my players," said Azraai.
"We were a better team throughout but our urgency in the final 20 minutes was the key to our win. My players gave their 100 per cent and as for Hairuddin, he made the difference to our campaign."
Azraai surprised many by playing Shukor, a midfielder, upfront along with Hairuddin and the move paid dividends as his captain's tireless work rate and experience caused all sorts of problems to Terengganu.
"I was confident that we would win as Terengganu seemed tensed as they were the favourites here. Anyway, I am so happy today (yesterday) as this is my first time winning the Malaysia Cup as captain," said Shukor.
Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti said poor finishing led to their defeat.
"We managed to create chances after Negri had levelled but we failed to capitalise on them. I do not want to blame any of my players for this defeat as everyone played well," said the disappointed coach.
Azraai opt for a strong defensive and midfield line-up, which restricted Terengganu's movement. Negri seemed to have won the midfield battle as they created opportunities early in the match.
Hairuddin almost took advantage of Terengganu's defensive slip-up after 44 seconds but his powerful shot went across the goal-mouth.
But as the game went on, Terengganu managed to find their footing in the match and came close in the 23rd minute when Manaf Mamat found space in Negri's penalty box but his attempt, which flew just over the finger tips of goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, rattled the crossbar.
The quick legs of S.Kunanlan, along the left flank, and the experience of Hairuddin and captain Shukor Adan gave Terengganu defenders and goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee some anxious moments.
Terengganu relied on quick breaks and from one of those exchanges, Negri were caught back-pedalling when Manaf found space at the edge of the box only to be fouled by centre back Aidil Zafuan Radzak, who subsequently received a yellow card from referee Shokri Nor.
Negri started more on the offensive after the breather. Shukor the found energy to outpace substitute defender Helmi Remeli, who came on for Mazlizam Mohamad, but the 32-year-old's powerful rising shot hit the side netting.
Terengganu's policy to play quick counter attack football paid off in the 59th minute. Manaf collected the ball from the middle of the field and used his speed to good effect to outpace several players before his pass, which deflected off a Negri defender, found Ashaari, who in turn rifled the shot past keeper Farizal for a 1-0 lead.
That goal changed the tempo of the match as both teams played in furious pace with the desperate Negri side determined not to go home disappointed after last year's failure in the final.
And Negri were rewarded courtesy of a mistake by goalkeeper Sharbinee, who allowed Kunanlan's in-swinging cross past him in the 80th minute.
Hairuddin then scored the winner, his eighth goal in the competition in the 86th minute to hand Negri the title.