Ghanaian International, Jordan Mintah has scored a brilliant goal and provided three assists to help Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur City FC continue their dream AFC Cup debut campaign, surviving a second-half scare by PSM Makassar to emerge 5-2 winners in the ASEAN Zonal Final at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium on Wednesday.
The two sides had met in their AFC Cup 2022 group stage opener, with the game on the same ground ending in a stalemate, but there was much more at stake this time around with a place in the Inter-Zone Semi-Final the reward for the winners.
After a cagey opening quarter of an hour where flying tackles and loss of possession were the order of the day, the Malaysian side got their first sight of the opposition target when Romel Morales collected a loose ball inside the Makassar penalty area and attempted his luck from a tight angle but was denied by goalkeeper Muhammad Reza Pratama before Zhafri Yahya skied his effort on the rebound.
Morales thought he had opened the scoring midway through the opening half when he met Paulo Josue’s in-swinging corner with a towering header at the near post, but Pratama was perfectly positioned to tip behind the Colombian’s attempt.
The Indonesian defence finally yielded under the pressure in the 33rd minute when goalkeeper Pratama misjudged the flight of Kamal Azizi Zabri’s floated cross from the right, allowing KL City captain Josue to head it back across the mouth of goal for Yahya who cut it back first-time with a cushioned header, setting up Morales to fire home on the half-volley.
With Makassar pushing higher in pursuit of an equaliser just before the break, KL City were able to take advantage of the spaces left behind as Josue drove forward on a swift counter attack, feeding the ball to Morales down the right and the 25-year-old in turn found delivered a perfectly executed cross for Jordan Mintah at the far post, and the Ghanaian applied the finishing touch to double his side’s lead going into the dressing rooms.
Yahya continued to be a menace for the Makassar defence down the right flank, and he was rewarded for his hard work with a penalty kick seven minutes into the second half as he hassled Muhammad Rizky Pratama, prompting the Indonesian defender to bring him down inside the box. Josue stepped up confidently and swept home to seemingly put the game beyond doubt.
All looked decided already with the game entering its final 30 minutes, but Makassar refused to give up and produced the pick of the goals in the 58th minute as Kenzo Nambu’s horizontal pass from the left flank was exquisitely dummied by Muhammad Arfan for the ball to reach Yakob Sayuri who moved it into his left and unleashed a thunderous drive from 30 yards out to spur his team back into life.
A minute later, it was Josue himself who did exactly that as goalkeeper Pratama was left to rue his luck. The Makassar custodian parried the initial long-range strike from Mintah but spilled his save, allowing the Brazilian to collect the loose ball, round the goalkeeper and slot home KL City’s fourth of the night.
Pramata’s evening went from bad to worse as he was penalised for bringing down Mintah inside the box, with substitute Hadin Azman converting from the spot to complete the win for Kuala Lumpur.