FORMER international Akmal Rizal Rakhli's inspirational performance helped Kelantan eliminate 32-time Malaysia Cup champions Selangor as they qualified for the semi-finals of the competition yesterday. Akmal turned provider twice and scored once in Kelantan' s 3-0 aggregate quarter-final victory at the Sultan Muhd IV Stadium after both teams drew 0-0 in the first leg last Tuesday in Shah Alam.
The match was played under tight security after crowd trouble in the first leg, but the 25,000 Kelantan fans at the stadium were at their best behaviour.
Selangor started on a promising note by having the first look at goal after four minutes but Safiq Rahim, after receiving a brilliant pass from right back D. Surendran, failed to beat Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat from an acute angle.
Kelantan then imposed their dominance with swift attacks, forcing Selangor to make errors in defence and getting their much awaited goal through midfielder Mohd Nor Farhan Muhd in the 13th minute.
Nor Farhan, upon receiving a through pass from Akmal Rizal, side-stepped Selangor left back Assaruddin Omar before hitting a swirling shot past goalkeeper Hamsani Ahmad.
Selangor seemed rattled and failed to play their normal game, allowing the homesters to conjure more scoring opportunities.
In the 24th minute, Akmal Rizal's diving header, off a low cross from captain Indra Putra Mahayuddin, beat Selangor keeper Hamsani for their second goal.
Indra almost took advantage of a defensive error by Selangor two minutes later, but his shot hit the keeper and deflected off the post before a defender cleared the ball away.
After the break, Selangor coach K. Devan, in a desperate move, made two changes by bringing on striker Rudia Ramli and Farderin Kadir for Safiq and Safee Sali and it added more sting to their game.
Selangor pinned Kelantan in their half for 15 minutes after the break and should have taken the lead on two occasions through striker R. Surendran and Faderin but Kelantan keeper Khairul Fahmi was up to it.
Akmal turned provider again when his superb pass on the right was picked up by captain Mohd Badhri Radzi, who coolly placed the ball past Selangor keeper Hamsani in the 79th minute
Kelantan, after this memorable victory, will be in a confident mood when they face either Terengganu or Kedah in the semi-finals.