Projek Ikan Pusu’s (PIP) hopes of cementing third place took a dent after they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Kota Ranger in the NFABD Under-16 Youth League at the NFABD Football Field yesterday.
The reigning holders would have sewn third place had they chalked a victory but a defeat leaves them needing to match or better rivals Hawa FT in the final league match of the season against Rimba Star FC tomorrow.
Hawa FT, whose chances of sneaking into third place appeared to be slim just a week ago, are thrust back into contention and will no doubt be ready to pounce shall there be any slip-up at the NFABD Football Field.
But, the Belait-based outfit must do their part too with a win against Bang Dalam, who won their last two matches, at home at the Arena Sports Complex.
In the early stages of the match, Kota Ranger’s Md Abdul Haiman Toneey forced a routine save from PIP goalkeeper Muhammad Zarif Ikhwan bin Haimidiy, who replaced Abdul Syaamil Afiq bin Abdul Jaafar in goal.
Projek Ikan Pusu captain Mohd Saiful Mahri bin Sambri tried to find the near post but the Kota Ranger goalkeeper Nur Muhammad Adi Halim made a good save.
Kota Ranger’s Awangku Md Nor Adry Fakry bin Pengiran Nor Husaini squandered a glorious chance to help his side into the lead having shot straight at the PIP goalkeeper after Md Abdul Haiman Toneey showed good work on the flanks.
PIP looked to have been troubled on the wings as Md Haiqal Hazzimman bin Md Raziman took over possession but his pass saw Awangku Md Nor Adry Fakry fire his shot wide.
The breakthrough arrived through a set-piece as Mohd Rahimi bin Abu Bakar reacted the quickest on the crowded box to poke the ball home.
Projek Ikan Pusu nearly clawed their way back into the tie following a dangerous cross into the box but Nur Muhammad Adi Halim made a fine reaction save.
The Kota Ranger shot-stopper was called into action again as Projek Ikan Pusu forward Mohammad Danish Bazli bin Mohammed Sumady curled an attempt.
With the last Kota Ranger defender landing on the turf, PIP‘s Mohammad Danial Bazli bin Mohammed Sumady looked to round the goalkeeper but a crucial save prevented him to make the decisive touch. Mohd Saiful Mahri looked for a finish from the rebound but his shot took a deflection for a corner.
Mohammad Danish Bazli broke clear in Kota Ranger’s final third but he was unable to trouble the Kota Ranger goalkeeper.
Kota Ranger were reduced to 10 men after Mohd Syafiq Hilmi bin Abdullah Sahiful Bahrin was evicted from the match for a second bookable offence.
The Kota Ranger goalkeeper misplaced his pass straight at a PIP player but fortunately for him it did not prove costly as Projek Ikan Pusu’s Alexander Yong contrived to hit the side-netting.
With time running out, PIP player Mohammad Syafiq bin Shahrin tried his luck from distance but Nur Muhammad Adi Halim tipped the ball away for a corner.