Kelantan's Francis Doe (centre) in action during the AFC match against Yangon United in Kota Baru on Tuesday. Kelantan lost 3-2. - SAZUKI EMBONG/ The Star
GEORGE TOWN: Kelantan’s hopes of qualifying for the AFC Cup knockout stage ended after going down 3-2 to Yangon United in their Group G match at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium.
The Red Warriors needed to win their penultimate group match on Tuesday night to stay alive, but were floored by the Myanmar champions, who will now accompany group leaders Ninh Binh of Vietnam into the round of 16. Yangon had also beaten Kelantan 5-3 in the reverse fixture in Myanmar.
After a nervy opening period from both teams, Yangon drew first blood in the 25th minute through Cezar Augusto.
Defender Nik Shahrul Azim played the Brazilian forward onside, and Augusto coolly slotted the ball past outrushing Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
Kelantan began the second half aggressively and went 2-1 up in the space of eight minutes.
From a seemingly non-dangerous position, midfielder Khairul Izuan cracked a dipping long-range shot in the 48th minute which beat Yangon goalkeeper Pyae Phyo Oo.
Five minutes later, the home crowd went wild after Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria muscled his way through a packed defence before rifling an unstoppable shot into goal.
But the Malaysians’ joy was shortlived, as a lapse in the Kelantan defence allowed the visitors to pull level in the 63rd minute.
Kyaw Ko Ko was allowed too much space to dribble the ball to the byline, and his pull back fell perfectly for Emerson Luiz to slot home.
Kelantan poured forward in search of the winner, with captain Mohd Badhri Radzi unlucky not to score in the 76th minute when his shot cannoned off the upright.
Instead, it was the Myanmar outfit who netted the winner in the very next attack through their national striker Ko Ko to collect all three points.
In the other Group G match, Ninh Binh dropped their first points of the campaign after being held to a 1-1 draw by Hong Kong’s South China.
The draw did not help South China’s cause, and their final group game against Kelantan at the Mongkok Stadium in a fortnight’s time will be for pride only.