BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Perak and Kedah shared one point each when they were tied 1-1 in their round 11 Super League (MSL) match on Wednesday. In the match that was held at the Perak Stadium, Hafiz Kamal scored for the home side in the 61st minute, but Baddrol Bakhtiar equalised for the visitors just 10 minutes later through a brilliantly-taken freekick.
The fifth-placed home side headed into the match looking for their first league win in three matches, as well as to close the gap with the visitors in third. The Bos Gaurus were on 16 points, while the Red Eagles were on 19. The visitors meanwhile were anxious to arrest their two-match winless streak in all competitions, after previously having gone 12 matches without losing from the beginning of the 2017 season, and having led the standings at one point.
Perak boss Mehmet Durakovic fielded all of his foreign players at the start of the match save for Vladislav Mirchev, who was benched. Yashir Pinto, Hadi Yahya and Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak led the Bos Gaurus' attack.
Kedah head coach Tan Cheng Hoe meanwhile finally welcomed the return of key midfielder Liridon Krasniqi from injury, and the remaining three foreign players in his squad were also picked at the start, including forwards Ken Ilso Larsen and Sandro da Silva. Fullback Rizal Ghazali was serving the suspension for the sending off he received in Kedah's previous match, and his place was filled in by Akram Mahinan.
The home side could have gone in front as early as the first minute, but Thiago Junio's header off a corner kick by Hafiz Kamal was blocked on the line by Akram.
In the seventh minute, Syazwan sent in an early cross from the right aimed at Larsen, but the Danish failed to connect with the delivery, and claimed that he was shoved in the back by a defender.
In the 20th minute, Halim Saari tried a curler from the edge of the Perak box, but it went wide.
Four minutes later, Faton Toski laid Pinto off in the Kedah penalty area, but Pinto's try with his first touch too went wide.
Both sides found no troubles creating chances in the first half, however their forwards' failure to be clinical in front of the goal meant the deadlock was not broken.
In the 42nd minute, Krasniqi lashed out against a challenge by Perak captain Shahrom Kalam with a particularly dangerous-looking kick to the latter's knee, but referee Nagor Amir Noor Mohamed only flashed the Kosovar a yellow card.
The first half ended a dour 0-0.
The pace did not pick up in the second half either, with both sets of midfielders failing to help their strikers by providing accurate passes. The poor pitch due to the heavy rain that has fallen throughout the day also disrupted the tempo of the match and the teams' gameplans.
In the 58th minute another curler was attempted, this time it was by Larsen from inside the Perak penalty area. His attempt was acurate, unfortunately it ended over the crossbar.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 61st minute, by Perak's Hafiz Kamal. A corner kick from the right was headed by Thiago towards the far corner, but Kedah skipper Khairul Helmi Johari managed to head it away. Unfortunately for the defender, the clearance dropped inside his own penalty box, and Hafiz struck it first time into the far bottom corner.
But Kedah managed to find the equaliser just 10 minutes later. Baddrol Bakhtiar struck from 25 meters out, sending his freekick over the wall, against the cross bar and bouncing behind the line.
The Malaysia international's goal proved to be the last goal of the match and the highlight of the drab match, and the match ended 1-1.
Perak : Hafizul (GK), Nazirul, Thiago, Shahrom (C), Amirul, Nasir, Hafiz, Faton (Shahrul 79'), Yashir, Hadi (Mirchev 90+1'), Zaquan (Nazrin 74').
Kedah : Ifwat (GK), Fitri, Helmi (C), Anderson, Akram, Syazwan (Fakri 77'), Krasniqi, Halim (Syafiq 70'), Baddrol, Sandro (Farhan 82), Larsen.