Kelantan FA 1 LionsXII 3: Super-sub Sahil earns LionsXII maiden FA Cup
Faris Ramli had given the Singaporeans a dream lead after just seven minutes, but Wan Zack Haikal levelled matters for Kelantan midway through the second half.
Just as it seemed that the pendulum was swinging towards the Red Warriors, Sahil showed up with a superb solo goal nine minutes before the end before slamming home an injury-time penalty to finish off the tie.
After overcoming Terengganu FA in the semi-finals a week ago, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad made only one change to his starting eleven – with Faris coming on for the injured Raihan Rahman.
The fans had barely settled in before the LionsXII were in front.
An Izzdin Shafiq through pass caught Kelantan right back Nik Shahrul napping, as Faris sneaked in behind him and drew keeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat out before slotting home into an empty net.
Stung by the early setback, Kelantan got their act together and peppered the LionsXII goal on a number of occasions.
First a lofted ball from captain Badhri Radzi caught out LionsXII left back Hafiz Sujad, but Wan Zack’s shot from a narrow angle was denied by keeper Izwan Mahbud’s outstretched right leg.
From the resulting corner played in by Badhri, Gilmar flicked his header just wide of the mark.
Erwin Carrillo then received a through ball from strike partner Gilmar, left marker Madhu Mohana for dead before unleashing a low drive which seemed destined for the bottom left corner, before Izwan intervened once again with his legs.
The Colombian had another opportunity within a minute when he found himself at the end of an intelligent Wan Zack cut back just in front of goal, only to be denied by Nazrul’s last-ditch block with his backside.
The chances kept coming and the Red Warriors should have perhaps equalised on 35 minutes when the LionsXII suffered a rare defensive mix-up, but Gilmar somehow fired wide from six yards out when it seemed easier to hit the target.
Wan Zack then spurned yet another opportunity six minutes before the break as he cut inside Hafiz, before lashing into the side netting with his weaker left foot.
The LionsXII could have doubled their advantage seven minutes after the break, but Khairul Nizam could not turn home Khairul Amri’s left-wing cross.
Kelantan resumed their dominance from the first half, with Carrillo being denied in a one-on-one opportunity with Izwan before Wan Zack got his it all wrong from 20 yards out.
Right back Nazrul Nazari then had to bail his team out twice in quick succession after Gilmar’s crosses had evaded the whole defence.
But Kelantan were not to be denied and they finally conjured up an equaliser on 63 minutes.
A superb Gilmar ball over the top caught out the static LionsXII defence as Wan Zack nipped just in front of Izwan to level matters on the night.
Buoyed by that goal, the Red Warriors continued their relentless pressure as Carrillo forced Izwan into a flying save with his 25-yard shot, before substitute Nor Farhan Muhammad lashed just wide similarly from range
It seemed like the momentum was with the hosts in the final 15 minutes, as danger man Austin Amutu entered the fray while the LionsXII saw Amri forced off via an injury.
However the resilient LionsXII refused to give up and their resilience was rewarded as they retook the lead nine minutes before the end.
Sahil, who had entered the field as a 58th-minute substitute for Nizam, stole the ball off Kelantan right back Nik Shahrul and took on three defenders, before slamming a fierce low shot from outside the box which proved too hot for Khairul Fahmi to handle.
Things got even better for the 23-year-old and the LionsXII deep into injury time, as he was brought down by a crude Amirizdwan Taj challenge inside the box which forced referee Zamzaidi Katimin to point to the spot.
Amidst the raining bottles from Kelantan fans in the stands, the SEA Games-bound Sahil sent Khairul Fahmi the wrong way to send the 6,000 travelling fans wild.
Photo: Football Association of Singapore