KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 – Table-toppers Negeri Sembilan was expected to beat injury-hit Sarawak United but in the end can consider themselves rather lucky to share points with a 1-1 draw in Saturday’s Premier League match at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi, Seremban.
Both sides went into the match with contrasting results last week. Sarawak United suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to Police, while Negri Sembilan won 2-1 against Kelantan.
With a full quota of their foreign legion at coach K. Devan’s disposal, Negri Sembilan was the favourite.
Instead, Sarawak United, without their South Korean midfielder Lee Chang-hoon and Brazilian forward Sandro Mendonca, went full throttle right from the start and grabbed the lead in the very first minute.
Former international Gopi Rizqi Ramachandran finished off a cross from the right to beat Negri Sembilan goalkeeper Damien Lim to give Sarawak United a morale-boosting start that rattled the home team.
From then on it was a tale of missed opportunities by both sides. Sarawak United backline boosted with the return of towering Australian defender Taylor Regan from an ankle injury, did well to thwart the homesters.
However, on the hour mark, Sarawak United finally caved in – Negeri Sembilan managed to score – thanks to a free-kick that Sarawak United gave away just outside the penalty box and it proved costly.
Cameroon forward Alain Thierry Akono, known for his powerful kicks, blasted a bullet shot that Sarawak United goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee never saw until the ball hit the back of his net. Negri Sembilan 1 Sarawak United 1.
“We were under-strength because of injuries. Despite that, the team played well and was more organized. The point earned against a team that had its full quota of foreign players is commendable compared,” said Sarawak United chief coach E. Elavarasan.
Negeri Sembilan head coach K. Devan blamed his team’s “lack of finishing” for the stalemate.
The point saw Negri Sembilan remain on the top of the league standings with 18 points after nine matches. Sarawak United, with a game in hand, is second on 17 points with Kelantan United a rung below on 16 points.