MSL Wrap: Pahang clinch Charity Shield while Johor confirm title aspirations
The grand opening of the 2014 season -- a rejuvenated, and slightly lost, LionsXII came out hungry against the trendy Pahang side. The game held three different narratives, the first being the important Charity Shield game, the second the three points to kick start the 2014 campaign and finally the battle between the debutant coaches; Ron Smith and Fandi Ahmad. All three narratives were won by Englishman Ron Smith courtesy of a 56th minute strike by Matías Conti to the joy of the Kuantan crowd who for 90 minutes roared louder than the Singaporean Lions ever could.
The game marked a terrific debut to the new Malaysian Super League season and was a great advert for Malaysian and Southeast Asian football -- despite the mere 1-0 scoreline.
On Saturday, Selangor opened the series of games in a home opener versus T-Team at the MBPJ Stadium. A recurring theme in this season’s MSL are debutants, and once again a debutant hit the mark with Paulo Rangel scoring a brace after just signing with the Red Giants. A largely dominant Selangor performance bagged them two goals and 65% possession while keeping T-Team at bay with a solid defensive performance.
Terengganu began their season with an important victory from behind after Hamka Hamzah opened the scoring for PKNS FC after just 17 minutes. The Turtles would be saved by the new Guinean signing Mamadou Barry who towered over the PKNS FC defense, scoring a brace to win the game in the process.
Big spenders Johor Darul Ta'zim hosted Perak at Stadium Larkin, beginning their season with a 2-0 victory. The spotlight was on new marquee signing Pablo Aimar but the Argentinian was tightly marked by a very stingy Perak defense. Johor would break the deadlock in the second half through a Amri Yahyah header and then capitalize on a Raffi Nagoorgani sending off to complete the 2-0 victory.
In Kota Bharu, Kelantan defeated Sime Darby FC 2-1 with new (old) signing Mohammed Ghaddar bagging a brace. The Red Warriors fell behind at home, but completed the comeback, signed by Ghaddar, with a converted penalty. The Lebanese striker was prolific in his last stint with the Red Warriors back in 2012-13.
Yet another penalty made its mark on the first round of the season at the Selayang Stadium where ATM overcame Sarawak. Marlon Alex James converted from the spot while Christie Jayaseelan made it 2-0 for the home side, ensuring the three points were sealed and delivered.
All six home teams won on the first week of the season, while we witnessed two comeback victories. New signings hogged the headlines; with the new influx of players impressing on their debuts.
ATM, Johor Darul Ta'zim and Selangor are tied first with a goal difference of +2 with other victors Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang tied behind them with a goal difference of +1. Rangel, Ghaddar and Barry lead the scorers list with 2 goals apiece.