BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Kedah's poor run of form continued after they were handed a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of T-Team FC in Round 10 of the Super League. Playing at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium, the Red Eagles never recovered from Rizal Ghazali's red card in the first half as the Titans completely dominated proceedings.
Rahmad Darmawan reintroduced Farhod Tadjiev after his unavailability in the previous match against Perak, giving the Indonesian his full quorum of import players. The same can't be said of Tan Cheng Hoe who had to make do without influential Liridon Krasniqi and Ken Ilso, with Halim Saari and Syafiq Ahmad coming in as replacements.
At the start of the match, even without their two star players, it did not seem to hamper Kedah. They quickly assumed control of the match with Halim and Akram Mahinan hogging the ball in midfield. But the game turned into a different direction in the 10th minute that caused momentum to swing the other way.
In what was their first foray forward, Mahamadou Samassa's cross found who Dilshod Sharofetdinov calmly chested down the ball to give Zac Anderson the slip before slotting home past the advancing Ifwat Akmal to put the home side 1-0 ahead. Tan's boys were stunned and stung by the goal and all of the sudden, began to lose their grip on the match.
At the half hour mark, Kedah's were dealt another blow when Rizal got his marching orders for hitting the back of Fakhrurazi Musa's head in retaliation. The latter jumped in with a high foot in a downward movement that caught Rizal in the shin. Surprisingly, the T-Team midfielder only received a yellow card for his troubles.
The Titans took full advantage of the extra man and scored again before Tan managed to reshuffle his team accordingly. In the 37th minute Ifwat managed to stop Dilshod in an one-on-one situation but from the subsequent passage of play, Kamal Azizi's cross from the right hand side was slammed home by Nor Hakim Hassan who ghosted into the space that is usually manned by Rizal.
To their credit, despite the disbelief and dissatisfaction building up upon seeing a team mate being hard done by, Kedah almost got themselves back into the game late in the first half. However, Syazwan Zainon's effort was high over the bar in the 43rd minute while Sandro da Silva's shot in injury time was palmed by Hafidz Romly.
That wasn't the end of the action in the first half when in the fifth minute of first half injury time, T-Team's quick counter attack stuck the knife into the Red Eagles, even further. Tadjiev had great aware awareness to pick out Samassa with a back heel. The forward from Mali kept his cool to put the ball beyond Ifwat to make it 3-0 to T-Team.
At the start of the second half, Tan made his move by bringing on Fakri Saraani for Sandro, to give his team someone with better energy levels as Kedah seek to nullify the advantage that T-Team had with the extra man. Tan also discarded the attempts to move Baddrol Bakhtiar and then Akram to the vacant right back position by playing just three men at the back.
That gamble backfired 15 minutes into the second half when Anderson and Khairul Helmi both got sucked into midfield area and Nor Hakim broke the offside trap. The T-Team forward easily put the ball past Ifwat to make it 4-0 for the home side.
The goal pushed Tan to make two immediate and final throw of the dice by introducing Asri Mardzuki and Farhan Roslan for Syazwan and Baddrol respectively. The move did not improve things for the away side as T-Team struck again.
In the 64th minute, Samassa produced a wonderful through ball for Nor Hakim who ran in beyond Khairul Helmi. The forward did not waste the chance to grab his hat-trick and calmly slots past Ifwat for the third time in the match for an incredible score line of 5-0 to T-Team.
With only one import left on the pitch and a defensive one at that, Kedah struggled to get any consolation from the match. Their attacks were easily stopped and Tan's side clearly missed the invention of Krasniqi in midfield. T-Team were quite content with the score and took their foot off the pedal.
The defeat ends the last unbeaten run in the Super League and it puts more pressure on Kedah, given Tan's impending departure. For Rahmad, the three points earned tonight secures their place in the Malaysia Cup draw on top of them closing the point gap to the teams above them in the league table.