Pahang left defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) with an uphill battle in the Malaysia FA Cup quarterfinals after inflicting a 3-1 defeat in the first leg at Darul Makmur Stadium on Saturday night.
Other results saw Malaysia Super League (MSL) leaders Kedah enjoy another goal fest, thrashing second-tier PKNP FC 6-1 at Darul Aman Stadium in a match that was delayed due to floodlight malfunction.
Fitri Omar conjured up a 29 minutes brace before Liridon Krasniqi converted a spot kick to give the hosts a 3-0 lead at half-time. Danish striker Ken Ilso grabbed his own double after the break, sandwiched between a Syafiq Ahmad effort.
Croatian forward Marko Simic scored the winner for in-form Negeri Sembilan to edge Sabah 1-0, while Terengganu were held to a 1-1 draw against Sarawak in the other quarterfinal.
SUKU AKHIR PERTAMA PIALA FA 2017 | 1 APRIL 2017
FA CUP 2017 1ST LEG QUARTER-FINAL | 1ST APRIL 2017
Full Time pic.twitter.com/jC5ne7MIVL
- FA Malaysia (@FAM_Malaysia) April 1, 2017
But the plum tie of the last eight was in Kuantan. Pahang fans anticipated the classic Cup matchup by queuing up in hordes to buy tickets on Friday.
Syamim Yahya went some way to reimbursing their entrance fee with the opening goal after 14 minutes when he ghosted in to head home Matthew Davies' left-footed delivery.
His goal sent the 40,000 strong crowd in early delirium. It also meant that the Southern Tigers were breached for the first time in the competition.
But JDT, who had bossed the opening periods before Syamim's goal, were back level eight minutes later.
Their captain Safiq Rahim was the architect, floating in a free kick that Fadhli Shas headed across the Pahang goal.
Wan Azraie looked certain to smother the cross, but spilled it instead. Marcos Antonio was on hand to bundle home the rebound.
The teams more than matched each other in an MSL encounter on March 3, which JDT edged 3-2.
That same intensity reverberated in this encounter, with both sides having chances to score.
Pahang's Mohamadou Sumareh saw a shooting chance dissipate after overcooking his footwork in JDT's penalty zone. Then, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri did well to force a save from Wan Azraie from a tight angle after 30 minutes.
Matheus Alves, who scored a double in the MSL loss, restored Pahang's lead three minutes after the restart, thanks to a route-one goal.
Wan Azraie's goal kick was helped on by Wan Zaharulnizam, and the Brazilian striker nipped in behind Azrif Nasrulhaq to lob the past the onrushing Izham Tarmizi.
Hazwan should have levelled matter minutes later. But he fired his effort inches wide after outwitting Syamim and Muslim Ahmad in the penalty box.
Pahang dealt a severe blow to JDT's hopes with a third goal after 67 minutes.
Izham was caught in no man's land as he came out to collect a Syamim Yahya cross, leaving Bright Dike to steer home into an empty net.
JDT failed to find another crucial away goal, and will now need a big performance at Larkin Stadium in the return leg on April 23.
2017 FA CUP - QUARTER FINAL 1ST LEG | 1ST APRIL 2017
PAHANG [3-1] JDT
(Syamim 13' / Matheus 48' / Bright Dike 66')
(Marcos 21') pic.twitter.com/fkdHtlqRYg
- JOHORSouthernTigers (@OfficialJohor) April 1, 2017
But this performance will not please their Crown Prince of Johor (TMJ) owner, who was officially installed as new Football Association of Malaysia president last weekend.
TMJ had on Friday welcomed the visit of super agent Jorge Mendes, and former Barcelona president Joan Laporta to the club on Friday.
"They also brought along a few investors from Spain, Portugal and Turkey that have stated their interest to invest and project in football which is a positive indication for the economy and progress of Malaysian football," said a post on the Southern Tigers Facebook page.
JDT: Izham Tarmizi (GK), Fazly Mazlan, Fadhli Shas, Marcos Antonio, Azrif Nasrulhaq, Afiq Fazail, Gabriel Guerra, Safiq Rahim (C), Gonzalo Cabrera, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Brian Ferreira
Pahang: Wan Azraie (GK), Matthew Davies (C), Ashaari Shamsuddin, Wan Zaharulnizam, Syamim Yahya, Faisal ROsli, Heo Jae-won, Nor Azam, Muslim Ahmad, Mohamadou Sumareh, Matheus Alves