Kelantan's Shakir Ali (on his knees) gets his marching orders in the AFC Cup match against Ninh Binh FC of Vietnam. Ninh Binh won 3-2. – Bernama Photo
PETALING JAYA: How Kelantan must have wished they had all 11 men on the field against Ninh Binh FC of Vietnam.
Already depleted by the absence of six regulars, the Red Warriors were reduced to just nine men en route to being edged 3-2 by the Vietnamese team in a dramatic AFC Cup Group G match at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru on Tuesday night.
Kelantan had both their strikers – Shakir Ali and Khairul Izuan Rosli – sent off for retaliation in the 34th and 47th minutes respectively.
Ninh Binh, the group leaders, got their goals through foreign signings – Jamaica’s Kavin Bryan (23rd minute), Congo’s Tambwe Patiyo (50th) and Romania’s Voinea Petrisor (62nd). Kelantan replied through Nazri Ahmad (37th) and Khairul Izuan (44th).
The six Kelantan regulars were rested because of fatigue and injuries. Coach Steve Darby fielded reserve goalkeeper Mohd Syazwan Azahari instead of regular Khairul Fahmi Che Mat while defender Obinne Nwaneri was the only foreign player in the starting line-up.
Midfielder Mohd Shawky of Egypt and the experienced Mohd Badhri Radzi were only introduced at the hour mark.
The Vietnamese side came with their full squad, including all four foreign signings, and did well to go in front when Bryan punished the Kelantan defence with a clinical finish inside the box in the 23rd minute.
Although Kelantan had Shakir red-carded in the 34th minute, they still managed to find the equaliser when centreback Nazri curled in a beauty from 30m out to catch Ninh Binh goalkeeper Nguyen Van Hung offguard three minutes later.
Inspired, Kelantan surprised the visitors when nippy winger Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria beat the offside trap before unselfishly providing young striker Khairul with a chance to slot the ball past Van Hung in the 44th minute.
Two minutes later, disaster struck as Khairul was sent off for kicking Ninh Binh’s South Korean midfielder Sim Woon-sub.
Ninh Binh made full use of their numerical advantage to hand Kelantan their second defeat in three games with goals by Patiyo and Petrisor.
In an earlier match, Yangon United of Myanmar defeated South China of Hong Kong 2-0.