Pahang were crowned Malaysia Cup champions for the second year running after beating Johor Darul Ta’zim on penalties following a 2-2 draw in Saturday’s final.
In a thrilling clash at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, it was Tok Gajah who drew first blood in the 15th minute when Dickson Nwakaeme capitalised on some slack marking to meet Azidan Sairudin’s freekick with a glancing header past Al-Hafiz Hamzah.
However, JDT responded two minutes after the half-hour mark when Luciano Figueroa nodded Mahalli Jasuli’s deep cross back into the danger area and although Fadhli Shas’ initial shot was blocked, Jorge Pereyra Diaz reacted quickest to lash home the loose ball.
Just two minutes later, Harimau Selatan were presented with the perfect opportunity to edge ahead when they were awarded a penalty, after Pahang skipper Razman Roslan had handled the ball inside the box to prevent it from breaking through to Figueroa.
Still, all he did was delay the inevitable as Figueroa stepped up to the spot and sent Khairul Azhan Khalid the wrong way to put his side in front.
Darul Ta’zim were then unfortunate not to extend their lead eight minutes into the second half when Pereyra Diaz played a brilliant through-pass to release Figueroa, only for him to send his shot back off the post.
By now, things were starting to look dangerous for Pahang and they were dealt a huge blow in the 68th minute when Saifulnizam Miswan was shown a straight red; the defender penalised for throwing a punch at Amri Yahyah as both were jostling at a corner.
But remarkably, despite the numerical deficit, Zainal Abidin’s charges pulled level just three minutes later after Hafiz Kamal’s long ball was flicked on by Matias Conti into the path of Damion Stewart, who unselfishly laid the ball off for Nwakaeme to side-foot into the back of the net.
Having equalised against the odds, Tok Gajah looked content to play out the remainder of the 90 minutes and force extra-time but Darul Ta’zim did have one final opportunity to win it in regulation time in the 87th minute.
After carving open the opposition defence with a neat passing move, the ball eventually fell to Pereyra Diaz on the edge of the area but Azhan got a vital touch to push his shot onto the post, before Razman hacked the loose ball clear with a couple of Harimau Selatan players lurking.
Extra-time ultimately arrived and again Pereyra Diaz was looming as the likeliest source of a winner, only to be let down by his finishing.
The Argentine failed to keep his header down in the 98th minute when he was picked out inside the box by Amirulhadi Zainal following a sweeping counterattack, and two minutes later, he blazed over with only Azhan to beat after latching onto Figueroa’s nod-down and easily skipping past Zesh Rehman.
Pahang did have one opening where they threatened to steal the win in the 109th minute when R. Gopinathan cut in from the right, before firing away a curling right-footed effort that had Al-Hafiz scrambling but ended up in the side-netting.
In the end, it was the dreaded penalty shootout that was required to separate the two teams and the first six kicks were dispatched with minimal fuss; Razman, Stewart and Shahrizan Salleh netting for Tok Gajah while JDT’s three efforts were converted by Figueroa, Pereyra Diaz and Hariss Harun.
Nonetheless, the drama then arrived after Rehman had made it 4-3 to Pahang as Norshahrul Idlan Talaha stepped up, only to see his tame effort comfortably saved by Azhan.
That paved the way for Hafiz to emerge as the hero for Pahang and he made no mistake in smashing his spot-kick into the top corner, sealing a second consecutive Malaysia Cup triumph for his side in the process.
Johor Darul Ta’zim: Al-Hafiz Hamzah, Mahalli Jasuli (Amirulhadi Zainal 62’), Marcos Antonio (Hariss Harun 103’), Fadhli Shas, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Shakir Shaari (Norshahrul Idlan Talaha 91’), Safiq Rahim, Jasazrin Jamaluddin, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Amri Yahyah, Luciano Figueroa.
Pahang: Khairul Azhan Khalid, Saifulnizam Miswan, Razman Roslan, Damion Stewart, Shahrizan Salleh, Azamuddin Akil, Azidan Sairudin (Fauzi Roslan 101’), Faizol Hussein (Hafiz Kamal 62’), R. Gopinathan, Matias Conti (Zesh Rehman 78’), Dickson Nwakaeme.