PETALING JAYA: Irwan Fadzly Idrus was the unlikely hero in Armed Forces’ Charity Shield win over Kelantan at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
The soldiers were trailing 1-0 from Indra Putra Mahayuddin’s 55th minute strike with only five more minutes remaining when they earned a free-kick.
The 31-year-old leftback stepped up to the plate to curl home a free-kick to level the scores. Forces then prevailed 4-3 in the penalty shootout to win the Shield for the first time.
It was sweet revenge for Forces as they were beaten 3-2 by Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup final last season.
“I’m not the regular free-kick taker in the team. I took the free-kick as I had a strong gut feeling that I was going to score,” said Irwan, who was voted the man-of-the-match.
Irwan added that he scored from a similar situation during a pre-season match.
“But in a match as important as the Charity Shield, the pressure is greater. I guess having scored during the pre-season gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Irwan added that the win was the perfect way to start the Super League season against Lions XII at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium on Wednesday.
“I hope the team will continue to improve. I believe we have a good combination of experienced and young players to mount a serious challenge in the league,” said the Kedah-born player.
Forces coach B. Sathianathan, however, played down the significance of their win over Kelantan.
“My players showed great character to bounce back despite being a goal down. But the league is different and the season is long. We need consistency to do well. I hope this win will inspire my players to beat the Lions on Wednesday.”
Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak, who guided Kelantan to an M-League treble last season, was disappointed not to pick up the first trophy of the season.
“It’s a disappointing result for us. We didn’t make our chances count and this defeat is a good wake-up call,” said Hodak.
“Last season, we also lost the Charity Shield to Negri Sembilan. But we recovered to end the season with a treble. I believe we can bounce back from this setback.”
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