The conclusion of another Malaysia League season saw an exciting two-horse race in the top flight for large parts of the campaign, before one powerhouse went on to cement their dominance on the domestic front. Other standout incidents included a Penang player who put himself on FIFA's radar for goal-of-the-year contender, while the nation also mourned the passing of a promising young goalkeeper.
Here are some of the key events that encapsulated yet another colourful domestic season in Malaysia.
Faiz Subri beauty hit could be shortlist for Puskas Award
In February, Penang forward Faiz Subri made world headlines after netting an outrageous free kick against Pahang at the City Stadium. The physics defying goal, which he struck from the far left corner from 40 yards took a swift, wicked bend into the top corner on its way in to leave both his teammates and opponents blown away.
The set-piece, now dubbed the knuckleball free kick got the Football Association of Malaysia so excited that they nominated it to FIFA for the Puskas award. Besides saving their top flight lives on the final day of the Malaysia Super League (MSL) season, Faiz's goal will long live in memory of those who came to watch Penang that night.
Felda United-JDT play out top two battle to savour
JDT and Felda United were wrestling for the league title for the best part of the campaign, so it played out nicely that the league decider could be confirmed at the Tun Abdul Razak Stadium on Aug. 24. Indeed, the match lived up to its billing as one of the most entertaining 90 minutes in the MSL.
The Southern Tigers were denied two blatant goals by match officials, even though replays proved that the entire ball had crossed the line, both times. The absence of the goal-line referees did not deter JDT, who still scored two early goals to shock the Settlers. But Felda fought back like worthy adversaries to draw level just before a dramatic first 45 minutes. Irfan Bakti's men however lost the title, after they had a men sent off, and JDT scored the winner a minute later.
A 3-0 success against Terengganu on Sept. 9 confirmed JDT's title at home, but the 3-2 thriller a fortnight earlier was the perfect advertisement for Malaysian football, played out by the two best sides in the country.
Southern Tigers a class above on domestic front
Clinching a third consecutive MSL title was just one of a few records JDT have broken this season, besides being the only unbeaten team in the history of the league. The millionaires were rampant from the season opener, beating Selangor to win the Charity Shield, before following that up with the FA Cup title in May. They saved the best for last by strolling to the league title with a 15-point margin triumph over Felda .
A key factor of their invincibility in the league was their unity. JDT simply performed like a band of merry brothers. Azamuddin Akil, Safiq Rahim, Fazly Mazlan and S. Kunanlan were among the few locals who played their best ever season.
JDT were of course infused with abundant Argentine firepower, who roasted many teams time and again. Jorge Pereyra Diaz, who took home the Golden Boot with 18 goals was unplayable at times, and his telepathic understanding with 16-goal Juan Martin Lucero resulted in more than half of the 56 goals the club managed this season. With a firebrand owner in TMJ and another Argentine henchman in Mario Gomez, all signs are pointing to another JDT domination next season.
Mismanagement curse continues to plague teams
Poor management ethics was a common theme yet again in the M-League, with eight coaches either being "rested," or given the boot. Terengganu twice replaced their trainers after Ahmad Yunos and Mike Mulvey were told to take a rest, while Jacksen Tiago, K.Rajagobal, K.Devan and Syamsul Saad were also slapped with that grey decision which ultimately led to their exits.
Selangor, who had got rid of Zainal Abidin Hassan after a rut had to also deal with incensed fans demanding for privatisation and high ranking officials to leave their positions, both of which have yet to be fulfilled. Even the coaches who did well were not rewarded for their efforts. Velizar Popov, who led Kelantan to a respectable fourth place in the MSL, decided to leave the team after they could not table him a contract due to sponsors' failure to meet their financial obligation. Melaka United also brashly told off Mat Zan Mat Aris his services were no longer required, despite him leading them to the Premier League title.
It's high time the Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership, together with FAM present their affiliates with a clear direction of elite management, especially with the league heading towards complete privatisation by 2017.
Stevan Petrovski will be missed
The local football fraternity were left to mourn the demise of talented Australian-born Malaysian goalkeeper Marco Stevan Petrovski, who died in May, a month after he was struck by lightning in a training session. The 18-year-old was severely injured in the freak episode on April 5, when lightning hit him and his Melaka United teammate Muhd Afiq Azuan during training. Afiq survived the tragedy, but Petrovski never regained consciousness and passed away due to swelling of the brain.
The late President Cup custodian's passing however ignited a fire within the state side, who dominated and won the Premier League to seal their top flight return after a decade hiatus. Petrovski may not have realised his dreams of becoming the top stopper in the country, but he would have been proud of his teammates for their wonderful tribute.