IPOH: Negri Sembilan have finally landed the trophy they have been hunting for 55 years. And it was every bit a golden effort as Everson Martinelli pounced five minutes into extra-time to score the winner for his team in the FA Cup final against Perlis at the Perak Stadium here.
The 25-year-old Brazilian tucked home the crucial goal in the 95th minute after young K. Rajan shook off his marker to measure in a neat cross.
In the end, the lack of big match told on Perlis. It was the Northern Lions, actually, who had looked like the more likely winners with their constant attacking play.
But for once, the talismanic Zambian Phillimon Chepita could not conjure his magic. Neither could his new partner Lamin Conteh Jr of Sierra Leone.
Chepita did put Perlis ahead in the 11th minute but he had many more chances that he should have taken. Instead, Negri produced a flash of brilliance to draw level at 1-1, through Effendi Malik.
Chepita even skimmed the bar just three minutes into extra-time. Then, it was all over as Everson scored, Negri became only the second Premier II team to win the FA Cup and the Perlis trophy cabinet remained as barren as ever.
Negri came on with a surprise, leaving defender Azrul Amri Burhan on the bench and opting instead for Sharizam Mohamed.
Even without Azrul, the Deer were comfortable and came out looking for an early lead.
Perlis, however were unperturbed and quickly settled down, forcing Negri to backpedal, with Chepita and debutant Conteh Jr always threatening.
The Northern Lions did not have to wait long. Negri gave away a free-kick from about 18m out and Perlis struck with the opener in the 11th minute.
In their first dangerous look at goal, a curling shot from deadball specialist Rosle Derus forced goalkeeper Azlisham Ibrahim to parry wide. The ball hit the post and bounced to a lurking Chepita. The Zambian tucked it away.
Badly shaken, Negri began losing shape and nearly caved in again 13 minutes later. Shahrizam tried to play back a pass to skipper B. Rajinikandh, but it fell to Conteh Jr who quickly freed Chepita, only to see the Zambian bolting it over.
Negri, who were left chasing the game, seemed to have no answer as Perlis continued to take a firm control of midfield.
Their best chance of an equaliser came in the 41st minute, with Argentine Luciano Osmar Gonzales heading just over from a Shahrizam free-kick
Perlis continued to call the shots but Chepita and Conteh Jr took turns to fumble with what could have been their second goal. And Perlis were made to pay a heavy price.
Negri suddenly sprang to life and Gonzales lofted the ball over a crowded Perlis defence in the 56th minute. Effendi added the finishing touch to beat a charging Mohd Amran Omar.
It was 1-1 and sensing a possible victory, Negri Sembilan coach K. Devan brought on the experienced Azman Adnan for Mohd Aiman Wong. It sparked off some fierce end-to-end exchanges, but it was again Perlis who were the constant tormentors.
But they just could not finish and both sides seemed content to wait for extra-time. Negri caught their breath and, five minutes, into extra-time, Everson struck.
Negri Sembilan: Azlisham Ibrahim, Lim Chan Yew, B. Rajinikandh, Luciano Osmar Gonzales, Mohd Anuar Jusoh, Mohd Aiman Wong (Azman Adnan), Norhafiz Zamani, K. Rajan, Sharizam Mohd (Md Syaiful Sabtu), Effendi Malik (Rosli Omar), Everson Martinelli.
Perlis: Mohd Amran Omar, Adrien Jurad, Feriza Ismail, Suhaili Abdul Karim, Somchat Na Rong, Mohd Kaironnisam Hussain, Khairun Haled Masrom (Nazaruddin Zain), Tengku Hazman Hassan, Rosle Derus, Lamin Conteh Jr, Phillimon Chepita.