Sarawak pushed national team Malaysia to the limits as Malaysian head coach K. Rajagopal was made to sweat in a game played in front of an estimated 25,000 crowd whom braved the rain with their red and black stripes clearly visable.
Both teams started careful with neither making proper moves towards any side of the field. However, as the game progressed, Sarawak started to engineer decent moves through brilliant vision from the midfield mastered by crowd favourite Guy Bwele.
Sarawak pushed for the lead with with Ashri Chuchu and Azizan Baba both providing headache for the crumbling Malaysian team as the home side created chance after chance on goal, only to be denied by poor finishing. New arrival Joel Epalle seemed to be more instrumental distributing the ball, with some beautiful passes made to K Rajan, Ashri Chuchu and Azizan Baba.
The score board almost changed in Sarawak’s favour when Rashid Aya made a powerful shot to the left of Malaysia’s goal. However, his shot merely scrapped the goal post for nothing.
The back line of Sarawak was rock solid as the likes of Dzulazlan Ibrahim and Yosri Derma Raju intercepting critical passes into the Sarawak area much to the frustration of Rajagopal’s men. The entertaining first half ended with Sarawak dominating the game, and Malaysia absorbing countless attempts on goal. It also saw the Malaysian side being awarded with not less than three yellow cards for fouls on the Sarawakian players.
The breather saw some fresh legs being brought into the game by both teams. Malaysia looked more organized in this half with Sarawak slowly loosing composure. Nonetheless, Sarawak continued to trouble the Malaysian side with interesting efforts which include one clear chance on goal which was squandered by Rashid Aya.
Ramesh almost made in one up for the home team but his 30 yard lob shot was just inches from the right corner, saving the visiting team an embarrassing leak. A quick attack by Malaysia finally penalized Sarawak when Venice Delphi Danny Kaya’s thundering shot caught Saiful Amar off guard, giving Malaysia the lead.
Sarawak replied instantly when a Malaysian defender failed to control a loose ball, allowing Epalle to snatch it, and calmly slot in the equalizer making him an instant hero. (Photo below taken by Dunia Sukan Online showing Epalle doing a back flip to celebrate his goal)
Epalle was then substituted for what could be said to be Vedran Muratovic’s last game for Sarawak before Khairul Azahar replaced Muratovic about ten minutes later.
Both teams failed to make any impact in the last ten minutes with the game slowing down in both pace and attacks. The man in-charge finally blew the final whistle with Sarawak tied with Malaysia’s best; 1-1.