BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Youngster Farhan Roslan emerged Kedah's hero in their first leg FA Cup semi-final match against Terengganu, when he scored the only goal of the match, just two minutes after he was introduced as a second-half substitute.
Kedah started the match with the exact same players fielded at the start of their mid-week league match against Perak. All four of their foreign players were listed, as well as skipper Khairul Helmi Johari and wingers Baddrol Bakhtiar and Syazwan Zainon. The only change? Their head coach. Tan Cheng Hoe finally departed to take up the assistant head coach post at the Malaysia national team, just one day before the match. His assistant Nidzam Adzha took over in the match.
Terengganu boss Irfan Bakti Abu Salim meanwhile started with all of his foreign players except for the suspended Lutfulla Tuarev. Amierul Hakimi Awang was the man between the sticks, Abdul Shukur Jusoh and Ferris Danial were in midfield.
The Red Eagles were fortunate to be playing the first leg at home. On top of Cheng Hoe's abrupt departure, they were in a four-match winless streak, while the visitors have won three, lost one and drawn one out of their five most recent matches.
The Turtles could have gone in front as early as the second minute through a scintillating move between Faiz Nasir and Issey Nakajima-Farran. Faiz sent the Canadian through with his first touch, but Kedah custodian Ifwat Akmal was quick to close down the angle to keep out Nakajima-Farran's attempt.
Kedah midfielder Liridon Krasniqi dropped to the ground inside the Terengganu penalty area in the sixth minute under a challenge, but referee Zam Zaidi Katimin waved play on.
In the 18th minute Sandro da Silva struck the ball across the Turtles' goalmouth aiming for the far bottom corner, but Amierul dived quickly enough to keep the ball out. It was a particularly good save, as the Brazilian's effort bounced erratically over the surface on its way towards the goal.
Nidzam was forced to make an early change in the 24th minute, when midfielder Halim Saari was injured and had to be replaced by Syawal Nordin.
Tempers flared at the hour mark between Kedah's Fitri Omar and Nakajima-Farran following a particularly harsh challenge by the defender, and Fitri remonstrated by touching his forehead against the Canadian's in a show of bravado. Although the contact could not in any way be described as a headbutt, the Terengganu captain nevertheless collapsed in a heap. Fortunately for Ftiri, the referee saw through Nakajima-Farran's less-than-convincing act and kept his cards in his pocket.
Syazwan wasted a golden chance to give the home side the lead. A cross from the right by Ken Ilso Larsen fell to him near the far post with the goalkeeper already beaten, but the Malaysia international sent his shot over the crossbar instead.
The first half ended goalless, but it was Terengganu who must have been feeling fortunate while walking into the dressing room. Kedah owned the lion's share of the possession and the chances, but could not make them count. The Turtles were clearly missing their midfield maestro Turaev, and were unable to control more of the game in midfield.
Six minutes into the second half, Krasniqi got on the end of a pinpoint cross from the left, but he too blazed his shot over the bar.
Amirul saved Terengganu's bacon again in the 66th minute, stretching every muscle in his body to keep out a deceptive Larsen shot.
Farhan was brought on in the 69th minute to replace Sandro, and just two minutes later he opened the scoring in the match, just as a heavy rain started to fall. Larsen sent in a low cross from the left, and the youngster slammed the ball in on the run. This time Amirul could not keep the chance out.
The goal was Farhan's third goal in the FA Cup this season, taking his tally to four in all competitions.
Bad turned to worse in the 79th minute for the Turtles. Adib Aizuddin Abdul Latif was shown a second yellow for a clumsy challenge on Farhan, and was given his marching orders by the referee.
The introduction of the youngster managed to bring in a lot more lethality into the Red Eagles' attacks, with Farhan providing dangerous assists and making threatening attempts on the Terengganu goal.
However the match only ended in a 1-0 win to Kedah, but despite the slim win it is far from over for the Turtles. The return fixture on May 13 will be played in Kuala Terengganu, and this time Turaev is likely to be available.
The statistics show that the home side made almost 15 attempts on goal against the visitors, and their wastefulness and inability to convert the chances may just come back to haunt them in the second leg.
Interestingly, this win, recorded on the final day of April, is the Red Eagles' first win in five matches across all competitons, with their last win coming on the first day of the month, a 6-1 win over PKNP FC in the first leg of their FA Cup quarter-final tie.
Kedah : Ifwat (GK), Fitri, Helmi (C), Anderson, Akram, Syazwan (Fakri 75'), Krasniqi, Halim (Syawal 24'), Baddrol, Sandro (Farhan 69'), Larsen.
Terengganu: Amirul (GK), Hazeman, Lazaro, Haniff, Firdaus, Ferris (Partiban 78'), Shukor, Nakajima-Farran (C) (Asrol 85'), Faiz, Sharin, Falcone.