WHATEVER hope Selangor had of chasing down Singapore's LionsXII and Kelantan for the Super League title evaporated after a spectacular collapse in Shah Alam on Tuesday when Negri Sembilan poached a 3-1 win.
Playing in just their second match at the Shah Alam Stadium this season, Selangor gave their fans a sobering reminder they are no longer the giants of Malaysian football.
That mantle has been taken up by Kelantan and Negri exposed the frailty in the Selangor team with a clinical display of finishing.
Selangor, who had played their home games in Bukit Jalil and Petaling Jaya without defeat earlier this season, might be regretting the return to the cavernous Shah Alam Stadium that was terribly lacking in atmosphere.
Midfielder K. Gurusamy was never in the game as he failed to protect the back-line whose comedy of errors, especially by the normally reliable Ramez Dayoub and Asraruddin Putra Omar, led to all three Negri goals.
G. Jeevananthan's jittery display in goal did not help matters and it might be time for coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim to recall Norazlan Razali, who has not played since dropping a clanger against Johor FC in a second round FA Cup tie on March 10.
Selangor can also consider themselves unlucky after hitting the woodwork twice in the second half while Negri goalkeeper Farizal Marlias pulled off several fine saves.
"We played well but the first two goals were errors by the midfielders. That was the reason for our defeat," said Irfan after the game.
Amirulhadi Zainal and Safiq Rahim certainly could have done better while Amri Yahyah and Bosko Balaban appeared to lose their bearing when caught offside an incredible 11 times.
Credit should go to Negri for a well-executed game plan that relied on Shukor Adan's sturdiness at the back against his former team and the pace of S. Kunanlan and Shahurain Abu Samah causing constant problems for the hosts.
With Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona suspended, Firdaus Azizul stepped up to rock Selangor with just 72 seconds gone.
Striker Ahmad Shakir Ali only enhanced his reputation by scoring either side of the break to take his league tally to eight goals before Balaban reduced the arrears in stoppage time.
Owona will be back when Negri entertain Johor FC at Paroi on Saturday but Firdaus' condition will have to be assessed after appearing to sprain his ankle in the first half.