Analysis

Malaysia Cup: Norhakim plays starring role as Perak smash five past Sabah in Ipoh

Perak have effectively got one foot in the unifi Piala Malaysia final after they smashed five goals past Sabah in the first leg of their semi-final clash in Ipoh last night.

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Five-star performance!

Norhakim Hassan played a starring role by scoring one and assisting three goals as The Bos Gaurus took a huge step towards qualifying for a cup final for the first time since 2007.

Norhakim opened the scoring with a fine finish on the 17th minute, before he turned provider for Wander Luiz, who doubled Perak’s lead on the 42nd minute. Brazilian forward Gilmar then made it 3-0 on the 73rd minute and barely a minute later, Firdaus Saiyadi capitalized on poor defending to put The Bos Gaurus 4-0 up.

If that wasn’t enough, Leandro dos Santos converted a spot-kick right at the end of the match to wrap up a convincing 5-0 victory in front of over 18,000 people at the Perak Stadium. Here are some key observations from tonight’s match.

NORHAKIM HASSAN TURNS ON THE STYLE

As ex-Australian international, Robbie Cornthwaite aptly pointed out on Twitter, Norhakim Hassan has had a pretty good season, but his performances in the Malaysia Cup haven’t been eye-catching to say the least. That said, the left winger exploded into life tonight, playing an integral role in helping Perak clinch a massive win over Sabah. Not only did he score one and bag three assists, Norhakim was a constant threat on the left flank, using his pace and understanding with Wander Luiz to open the Sabah defence on countless occasions. He was also hardworking enough to drop down and help Nazirul Naim deal with Maxius Musa, arguably Sabah’s most dangerous player on the pitch.

RAMOS & PAUNOVIC KEPT AT BAY

While Perak’s attacking unit were on fire throughout the 90 minutes tonight, their victory was also due in no small part to their stability at the back. The defensive partnership of Shahrul Saad and Idris Ahmad has come under scrutiny at times this season, but they did enough to keep Sabah’s foreign duo, Rodoljub Paunovic and Hector Ramos at bay for large portions of the game. Both men, who have scored a combined total of 20 goals in all competitions for Sabah, struggled to get a sniff at goal in Ipoh tonight and this eventually formed the foundation that allowed Perak to keep pushing ahead in search of more goals, despite already being 2-0 up.

BRENDAN + LEANDRO = MILITARY TANKS?

The other facet of Perak’s set-up that gave them a major advantage is the central midfield partnership of Leandro dos Santos and Brendan Gan. We’ve seen what their partnership can bring, but tonight, they were at their best, especially when it came to breaking Sabah’s attacking initiatives. Both Brendan and Leandro were never afraid to dive into tackles but more importantly, they worked hard to cover every blade of grass in the middle of the park, so virtually suffocate Sabah’s creative midfielders – Sabri Sahar as well as Paunovic, when he drops deeper to sit in the hole. Leandro also did go on to grab a goal by converting the late penalty that sealed the 5-0 win.