BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Kuala Lumpur (KL) retain their status as a Malaysia Super League (MSL) club for 2019, when they defeated Negeri Sembilan 2-1 in their round 21 match on Sunday. In the match that was held at the KLFA Stadium, the hosts went in front first through a goal by Bobirjon Akbarov in the 42nd minute, but Alex Gomes equalised just a minute later. Indra Putra Mahayuddin then netted the winner with three minutes remaining on the clock.
The two teams went into the penultimate round of the league separated by just six points in the standings; KL in 10th with 21 points, and Negeri in the relegation zone, in 11th place with 15 points. While the hosts needed only one more point to secure their top-tier status for the 2019 season, the visitors needed to win both their last matches just to have a mathematical chance of going level on points with KL.
Both teams were on a miserable run of form, but last Wednesday Negeri gave themselves a lifeline when they beat Selangor; the other club currently on 21 points, 3-1 at home.
Hawks head coach Fabio Maciel started with only three of his foreign players; Guilherme de Paula, Paulo Josue and Akbarov, while Achmad Jufriyanto Tohir and Junior Aparecido were benched. Skipper Indra returned to the starting line-up following his suspension in their 5-1 defeat to Perak in mid-week. Malaysia international Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak too supported Guilherme.
Deer boss Mario Lemos meanwhile retained almost the same starting line-up that won last Wednesday; save for Faizal Abu Bakar and Nicolas Velez, who was replaced by Faudzan Abu Bakar and Fakhrul AImam Sidid. All their foreign players started the match save for Velez and former Korea Republic international Kim Doheon, who were benched. Goalkeeper Kaharuddin Abdul Rahman kept his place between the sticks.
The visitors started strong, asking most of the questions against the hosts. In the ninth minute Ferris Danial Nasir sent in a teasing low cross from the right towards Fakhrul at the far post, but the Malaysia international's first touch was too heavy and he knocked it out of bounds.
Four minutes later Guilherme headed in a cross by Syazwan Andik Ishak, but he was already flagged for offside.
In the 16th minute Fakhrul was presented with another chance to open the scoring, but his attempt to curl the ball into the bottom corner was wide.
Five minutes from the halftime whistle, Guilherme was left with the keeper to beat following a quick counter-attack move, but his effort into the bottom far corner was palmed out by Kaharuddin.
However, the ensuing corner kick was headed home by Akbarov, to give the hosts the lead.
But their lead did not last long. Just a minute later, Gomes nodded in Ferris' corner, and the Deer were back in contention.
The first half ended tied at 1-1.
The second half began with no substitutions made, but when the visitors could not find the second goal, Lemos brought on Doheon and Khairul Izuan Rosli for Fauzan Dzulkifli and Ferris.
While they were struggling to threaten the hosts' goal, Negeri were hit by the sucker punch late in the game; in the 87th minute Indra sneaked behind the defenders to stab in Josue's free kick from the right.
The win put KL clear of the relegation zone with one league round remaining, while Negeri have no chance of saving themselves from relegation.
Kuala Lumpur : Sharbinee (GK), Saifulnizam, Syazwan, Akbarov, Firdaus, Hisyamudin, Josue, Indra (C) (Ashri 90'), Zhafri, Zaquan (Hafiz 75'), de Paula (Jufriyanto 90+').
Negeri Sembilan : Kaharuddin (GK), Gomes, Fauzan Fauzi, Osman, Flavio (C), Fakhrul (Rowley 84'), Aizulridzwan, Fauzan Dzulkifli (Doheon 68'), Ferris (Izuan 62'), Aiman, Guirado.
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