Kedah retain Super League title with gritty win

ALOR STAR: Kedah retained their Super League crown in style – defeating a gutsy Terengganu 2-1 at the Darulaman Stadium last night.

Although all they needed was a draw to seal the crown, Kedah gave their home fans more than that.

Marlon James put the Canaries ahead in the 22nd minute before Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin equalised for the Turtles in the 50th minute. Bernard Huggings delivered the winning goal in the 86th minute to send the home fans wild.

Splashing time: Kedah players celebrate aftet beating Terengganu 2-1 Saturday night toretain the Super League crown. – CHIN CHENG YEANG / The Star

Over at the City Stadium, closest rivals Selangor, who had three points docked from them by the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) Disciplinary Board on Friday, went down to a shock 1-4 defeat to Penang.

Selangor played as if they were still in a daze over the punishment, meted out because four of their players walked out of a national training camp conducted by Liverpool legend Ian Rush last month.

And basement side Penang took full advantage to capitalise on the Red Giants’ misfortunes, scoring through Azrul Ahmad (28th and 65th), Amir Shahreen Mubin (59th) and Farizal Rozali (72nd).

Akmal Rizal Rakhli, one of the guilty four, scored the consolation goal for Selangor in the 63rd minute.

Akmal, Mohd Safee Sali, Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Amirulhadi Zainal were each fined RM1,000 for their part in the walkout while Selangor coach Dollah Salleh was fined RM10,000. The FA of Selangor were hit with a RM20,000 fine.

But the night belonged to Kedah.

With the Darulaman Stadium packed to the brim despite a thunderstorm just hours before the game, the stage was set for the Canaries to take flight.

But the Kedah players seemed to freeze under the spotlight and failed to produce the kind of entertaining football they are famous for.

This allowed Terengganu to dictate terms in the early stages of the game, coming close in the 12th and 16th minutes through skipper Marzuki Yusof and Ashaari.

That woke up the Canaries. And in the 22nd minute the stadium erupted in joy. Earning a free kick outside the box, James lashed a fierce grounder past goalkeeper Mohd Sabinee Alawe for the opening goal.

James had the ball in the net again 15 minutes later but it was not given as the striker had handled the ball.

Terengganu came charging back after the break and needed just five minutes to silence the home fans. Freed by Mohd Norfarhan Mohd, Ashaari slipped past Huggings before slamming the ball home from point blank range to draw level.

Both teams then traded blows for long spells and Kedah finally got their second goal off a corner just four minutes before the end. Huggings made amends for his early mistake by crashing a header off a Nelson Sam Martin corner kick.

That was the cue for the celebrations to begin and how they partied into the night.

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