The first semi-final of ASEAN Zone in the 2022 AFC Cup sees Indonesia’s PSM Makassar take on Malaysia’s Kedah Darul Aman at Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium on August 9 (Tuesday).
The prize on offer for the winning team will be a place in the ASEAN Zone final opposite the winner of the other semi-final that will be played between Viettel and Kuala Lumpur City.
PSM Makassar were given a direct entry into the 2022 AFC Cup because of something they had achieved way back during the 2018-19 season when they had won the Piala Indonesia, which has since not been held due to the pandemic and so they remain the last winners of the cup competition.
Mind you, the Red Fish had milked that 2018-19 triumph already once to gain entry into the 2020 AFC Cup but since they remain the defending champions of the tournament till date, they were admitted to this year’s tournament as well.
Fortunately for them, PSM Makassar made full use of this bonus entry. They were placed in Group H alongside Kuala Lumpur City and Singapore’s Tampines Rovers, and they went unbeaten, drawing one and winning the other match, although this feat was also matched by Kuala Lumpur City.
However, PSM Makassar’s slightly better goal difference earned them the tag of group winners, and a place in the zonal semi-finals.
While their opening match with Kuala Lumpur was drawn 0-0, they made up for it by thrashing Tampines Rovers 3-1 in the next game. The game was pretty remarkable as PSM were trailing 1-0 after Rovers midfielder Zehrudin Mehmedovic scored in the 29th minute. Perhaps it was head coach Bernardo Tavares’ pep talk at the break that inspired PSM to completely turn the match on its head in the second period.
It took them just three minutes in the second half to equalize via their diminutive midfielder Muhammad Rizky. That said, the real drama happened in the final stretch of the game and it was due to only one man: Everton. The Brazilian forward scored his first in the 79th minute before finding the net again deep in injury time. That double salvo earned them Group H’s biggest win and the prize of progression.
Kedah Darul Aman
Kedah Darul Aman qualified for the 2022 AFC Cup due to being the runners-up of the 2021 Malaysia Super League behind champions Johor Darul Ta’zim.
The Canaries, as they are affectionately called, were placed in Group G, which had four teams, including Cambodia’s Visakha FC, Indonesia’s Bali United and Philippines’ Kaya F.C.–Iloilo.
The group saw all three of Kedah Darul Aman, Visakha FC and Bali United finish with six points each, with the fourth side Kaya F.C.–Iloilo serving as the punching bag, finishing winless.
Kedah Darul Aman deserves credit because they had begun their group stage campaign with a 2-0 defeat to hosts and Indonesian champions Bali United. The Green Yellow were outplayed in the game and were quite clearly the second-best team on the night.
However, they came back strongly in the follow-up game, thrashing Kaya F.C.–Iloilo 4-1 before doing even better in their final game and humiliating Visakha FC 5-1. Jordanian midfielder Mahmoud Al-Mardi was the hat-trick hero on that memorable night.
Two big victories saw Darul Aman’s goal difference soar to +5, which was by far the best in the group and more than enough to qualify for the semis.
Everton leads the forward line for PSM Makassar and like most Brazilians, he is always a goal threat. He scored twice in the win over Tampines Rovers and so his team would expect him to get on the score sheet again. Their captain Wiljan Pluim is also a towering presence in the midfield and on his day can really take the game by the scruff of its neck. He is also an active goal threat as indicated by his 34 goals in 129 appearances for PSM.
For KDA FC, Al-Mardi is the man as his tally of four goals in three matches tells us, but the impact of skipper Ronald Ngah can also not be underplayed. The Cameroonian striker did score an own goal in the defeat to Bali United but found the net in the next two games.
Another player to keep an eye on will be super sub Fayadh Zulkifli, who broke the deadlock against Kaya F.C.–Iloilo and found the net twice that night before scoring again in the win over Visakha.
PSM Makassar v Kedah Darul Aman Prediction
While both PSM and Kedah Darul Aman won their respective groups, Kedah were far more impressive and absolutely demolished two of their three opponents. In their ongoing domestic league, they are currently fourth — a little below the second-place finish they secured last year — but the season is not over yet.
On the other hand, PSM were pretty poor in their own domestic league campaign last year, finishing a disappointing 14th in the 18-team Liga 1 and avoiding relegation by just two points.
Furthermore Kedah Darul Aman will have the home advantage in this tie. In light of this, we’re going to back Kedah to beat PSM Makassar in this clash. To be precise, we see a comprehensive 3-1 win for Kedah.