Kelantan's Liberian striker Francis Doe is sandwiched between three South China players in the AFC Cup group match in Kota Baru on Wednesday. Kelantan won 2-0. - BERNAMA
PETALING JAYA: Kelantan’s tactical game plan to bring on key players after the breather worked to perfection when they defeated Hong Kong’s South China 2-0 in an AFC Cup Group G match at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru.
Former Harimau Muda A winger Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria opened accounts from a neat set-piece in the 71st minute before substitute Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud increased the lead six minutes from time.
It was the Red Warriors’ first win in Group G after going down to Yangon United of Myanmar 5-3 in their opening game last month.
Kelantan started without five regulars and failed to make an impact in a goalless first-half in Wednesday’s match.
The east coast side, who are now leading the 12-team standings in the Super League, rested their two influential foreigners - Lebanese striker Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud and midfielder Mohd Shawky from Egypt in the first-half.
Kelantan coach Steve Darby also rested skipper Mohd Badhri Radzi and forwards Ahmad Shakir Ali and Ahmad Fakri Saarani.
Lone striker Francis Doe of Liberia barely mustered a threat in the opponents’ half.
The Hong Kong First Division side had the best chance of the first-half to go in front but their Australian striker Andrew Barisic missed a sitter with only Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat to beat in the 23rd minute.
The east coast team had little to offer with Amar Rohidan calling the shots in the engine room while winger Wan Zaharulnizam provided the sparks down the flanks.
The match turned around in the second-half when Darby introduced Ghaddar, Shawky and skipper Mohd Badhri into the game at the hour mark.
The move resulted in nippy Zaharulnizam scoring the opening goal, which was orchestrated by Ghaddar and Shawky. Zaharulnizam made no mistake when he fired the ball from a neat set-piece into the box, beating South China goalkeeper Yapp Hong Fai from close range in the 71st minute.
Ghaddar wrapped up the game with a clinical finish when he latched onto a through pass and raced all the way into the box before slotting the ball past the onrushing South China goalkeeper in the 84th minute.
In an earlier match, Ninh Binh of Vietnam edged Yangon United of Myanmar 3-2 at the Ninh Binh Stadium in Hanoi.