Perak’s dreams of qualifying for next year’s AFC Cup were shattered after a string of defeats forced them to settle for fourth place in the league table. With Singapore LionsXII – who will not take up a Malaysian slot – securing second spot, the third-placed team was guaranteed of a place in next year’s edition of the continental tournament. Perak failed to make full use of the opportunity, as they performed miserably under pressure.
After a one-month hiatus, the Seladangs were raring to go. The league title was out of their grasp but qualification for the AFC Cup was a good alternative. Feeling motivated, Norizan Bakar’s men responded in style.
Two consecutive home wins over Felda United and Johor FC in June provided them the tonic to advance further. They took on Sarawak FA in Kuching and secured a 2-1 victory with goals from Michal Kubala and Albert Bodjongo.
Next on the card was a tricky home tie against T-Team FC, and they negotiated past it successfully. The visitors took a shocking lead before Perak gained parity through Nazri Kamal. Two more goals from Failee and Bodjongo increased their lead before T-Team ensured a nervy ending for the home side by pulling back a late goal through Faiz Subri. Norizan Bakar’s men stood firm and gained three vital points.
At this stage, AFC Cup seemed plausible. The boys knew that only victories in their remaining matches would put them in the driver’s seat. This was when the troubles started.
PKNS visited the Perak Stadium and were largely outplayed by the home side. Akmal Rizal gave Seladangs the lead and a victory seemed likely by the first half. PKNS, however, kept the pressure on and notched two come-from-behind goals to deny victory for the home side.
The defeat was a bitter pill for Perak to swallow. The boys carried the disappointment to Kota Bahru, where they took on the mighty Kelantanese. Norizan Bakar’s men were given an absolute soccer lesson by the technically astute Red Warriors. The Seladangs were trounced 6 nil. The score line was abysmal and Perak’s fate hung on a balance.
The players knew that a victory against Kedah would put them in good stead, heading into the final round of matches. But that was not to be, a below par performance saw them losing 2-1 to Kedah, who were down to 10 men for most of the second half.
The defeat allowed Selangor to edge Perak for the third spot in the league standing. Although the team faltered, a fourth place finish means that the Seladangs can still hold their heads high heading into the Malaysia Cup, which is scheduled to begin in September. Norizan Bakar, meanwhile, has gone on leave; may be for good this time around.