THE Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian Football Association (MISC-MIFA) were crowned the new FAM Cup champions.
MISC-MIFA, playing in the competition for the third season, edged Perak PKNP FC 2-1 in the second leg of the finals at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh.
MISC-MIFA, who had edged PKNP FC 1-0 in the first leg in Shah Alam, became the champions with an impressive 3-1 aggregate win.
However, the return leg was shrouded in suspense as MISC-MIFA had lodged a complaint to FA of Malaysia (FAM). MISC-MIFA had alleged that PKNP FC had fielded a suspended G. Mugenthiren in the first leg of the final.
According to the protest, Mugenthiren had collected his first yellow card when PKNP FC met Sungai Ara FC in the quarter-final while the second yellow card came in the match against Kuala Lumpur Felcra FC in the semi-final.
The rule states that a player, with two yellow cards, has to sit out one match. MISC-MIFA claimed Muginthren was not eligible to play in the first leg and demanded a 3-0 win.
It looked like a psychological war and it worked when the return leg kicked off in Ipoh. About 10,000 fans, including MISC-MIFA supporters from all over the country, were looking forward to an entertaining match.
MISC-MIFA, with the one-goal cushion from the first leg, were ambitious and looking forward to an early goal. It came in the fourth minute from a corner by M. Youwarasan with defender M. Yoges rising the highest to head past PKNP FC goalkeeper Hairol Fazreen Abu Hassan.
Down 2-0 on aggregate, PKNP FC relied on quick counter attacks but MISC-MIFA goalkeeper Mohd Khairul Izzuwan Shaari was a stumbling block with his fine anticipations.
MISC-MIFA, with skipper K. Nanthakumar taking over from the suspended K. Premananthan, playing a defensive role, were having the edge. But their forwards – G. Thipen Raj, K. Ravindran and Muhammad Fauzi Abdul Kadar – were unable to take advantage of the vulnerable PKNP FC defence.
The second half resumed with MISC-MIFA and PKNP FC looking for goals. But MISC-MIFA’s Mohd Khairul was in good form as he kept his goal intact.
Against the run of play, MISC- MIFA were awarded a free kick in the 67th minute. Defender Mohammad Munawwar Shavukath Ali connected the free kick with a header as MISC-MIFA increased their lead.
However, PKNP FC continued to launch raids at the MISC-MIFA goal. And they were rewarded in the 72nd minute when defender Muhammad Mazni Khairul Hasnan’s stinging shot, from outside the box, sailed into goal.
Referee Fitri Maskon was also kept busy as players from both sides were involved in several scuffles with PKNP FC’s captain Mohd Fazli Zulkifli given the marching orders for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute. Down by a man, PKNP FC were unable to match the defensive MISC-MIFA.
MISC-MIFA, with the comfortable two-goal lead, contained the PKNP FC’s raids and celebrated when the final whistle was blown.
MISC-MIFA team manager S. Arumugam said their match plan was successful.
“Nanthakumar was given strict instructions to play a defensive role. We had three forwards upfront and the match strategy worked. The early goal certainly boosted the players’ confidence. More importantly the players had the desire to win.
“For some of them it was a golden opportunity to win a medal in an FAM organised competition. The players overcome the odds to win the trophy for MISC-MIFA,” said Arumugam.
PKNP FC coach Abu Bakar Fadzim said they were confident of overcoming the deficit from the first leg.
“But the early goal resulted in the players being under pressure. It was unfortunate that all our attempts were not successful in the first half. Despite being down, our players never gave up and managed to get a goal.
“MISC-MIFA played well and deserved to win. We are sure the players gained valuable experience as we will be playing in the more competitive Premier League next season,’’ said Abu Bakar.
As host, PKNP FC also did an excellent job by providing adequate security arrangement for the fans. The security personnel were also strict and did not allow any unauthorised VIPs from getting to the grand stand.
As the champions, MISC-MIFA received the challenge trophy as well as RM200,000 cash while PKNP FC settled for RM100,000.
Deputy Sports Minister Datuk M. Saravanan and Dewan Negara president Datuk S.A. Vigneswaran gave away the prizes to the winning teams.
A total 17 teams – nine in Group A and eight in Group B – were involved in the FAM Cup. After the home and away league, the top four teams, from each group, advanced to the two-leg quarterfinals. For a place in the semi-finals, PKNP FC defeated Sungai Ara FC while MISC-MIFA upstaged MOF FC.
MISC-MIFA qualified for the final after beating AirAsia Allstars and PKNP FC defeated Kuala Lumpur Felcra FC in the semi-finals.
Both MISC-MIFA and PKNP FC, as the champions and runners-up respectively, have gained promotion to the Premier League.
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