By K. RAJAN
SHAH ALAM: Premier League champions Armed Forces lived up their nickname – the Gladiators – to edge Kelantan 4-3 in penalty shootout to lift the Charity Shield at the Shah Alam Stadium last night.
Both teams were tied at 1-1 in regulation time, with Indra Putra Mahayudin putting the Red Warriors ahead in the 55th minute before Forces defender Irwan Fadzly Idrus curled in a freekick to score the equaliser minutes before the end.
That sent the match into penalty kicks and it was Kelantan defenders Mohd Daudsu Jamaludin and Mohd Rizal Fahmi Abdul Rosid who ended up as villains after failing to find the target.
Kelantan’s Mohd Norfarhan Muhammad, Obinna Nwanneri and Mohd Badhri Mohd Radzi converted their kicks while Marlon James, K. Reuben, Rezal Zambery Yahya and Bruno Martelotto hit the target for Forces, who had R. Surendran’s attempt saved by Mohd Syazwan Yusof.
With the shootout tied at 3-3, Kelantan’s Daudsu missed and Martelotto kept his composure to score and hand Forces the first trophy of the season.
The win helped Forces make amends for losing 3-2 to the same opponents in the Malaysia Cup final last October.
As usual the encounter between the treble winners Kelantan and Forces got off to a slow start as both teams played cautiously, employing a 4-5-1 formation that left their strikers isolated.
The match came alive after the break when Kelantan, looking much more dangerous with their fast attacking game, floored Forces in the 55th minute as Indra fired shot from the edge of the box and it was deflected into goal by Forces defender Mohd Shukor Adan.
Stunned, Forces coach B. Sathianathan brought on striker James and R. Surendran to pressure the Kelantan backline.
The additional men upfront gave the Gladiators the much-needed impetus.
Forces were awarded a freekick in the 85th minute when Nwanneri fouled James outside the box. Irwan duly stepped up to curl the ball into the net.
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