Kelantan through to Malaysia Cup final after epic fightback

(KEL: Ahmad Fakri Saarani 82′; Badhri Radzi 85′ ATM: Marlon Alex James 18′, 35′)

Defending champions Kelantan are through to the Malaysia Cup final after producing a stunning comeback to claim a 4-3 aggregate win over ATM in their last-four clash.

Leading 2-1 on aggregate following victory in last week’s first leg at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium, the Red Warriors were expected to comfortably get the result they needed to advance to the final given their excellent home record.

But it was the visitors who took the lead at the Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium in the 18th minute when James, pouncing on a poor headed clearance by Dickson Nwakaeme, rifled a blistering volley past Khairul Fahmi and into the bottom corner.

Five minutes after the half-hour mark, the 36-year-old grabbed his second of the night to put ATM ahead on aggregate and it began to look as though they were going to be the ones who would be taking one step closer to the Malaysia Cup.

Kelantan did have their fair share of chances in the second half to get back into the contest but they struggled to find the breakthrough, largely due to poor finishing as well as an excellent display by opposition goalkeeper Farizal Harun.

However, with eight minutes left on the clock, the hosts pulled one back when substitute Ahmad Fakri Saarani nipped in ahead of Fitri Omar to meet Indra Putra Mahayuddin’s chipped pass, before blasting his shot into the back of the net.

That strike would have been enough to send the game into extra-time but remarkably, Kelantan scored again just three minutes later when Zairul Fitree Ishak’s left-wing cross found Badhri Radzi, who kept his composure and brought the ball onto his right foot before unleashing a ferocious drive into the top corner.

There was still enough time for ATM to snatch a last-gasp winner when a chance fell to Shukor Adan in the second minute of injury-time, but Fahmi produced a stunning save to deny his international colleague and seal his side’s progress to the final.

Starting XIs

Kelantan: Khairul Fahmi, Nik Shahrul Azim, Azizi Matt Rose, Obinna Nwaneri, Farisham Ismail, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Shakir Shaari, Badhri Radzi, Zairo Anuar Zalani, Norfarhan Muhammad, Dickson Nwakaeme.

ATM: Farizal Harun, K. Reuben, Norfazly Alias, Shukor Adan, Fitri Omar, Affize Faisal, Bruno Martelotto, D. Christie Jayaseelan, Hairuddin Omar, Venice Elphi, Marlon Alex James.

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