By ESPNSTAR.com staff
Following a goalless first half at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium, ATM surged ahead in the 55th minute through D. Christie Jayaseelan and doubled their lead six minutes after when Bruno Martelotto danced past two defenders before clinically firing into the back of the net.
However, the Deer were handed one back in the 73rd minute when Armed Forces goalkeeper Farizal Harun smashed a clearance straight at substitute Firdaus Azizul, and could only watch as the ball sailed over him and into the back of the net.
Hairuddin Omar restored the hosts' two-goal lead seven minutes later when he curled home a sublime effort, but Shakir Ali scored with a spectacular scissors-kick a minute from time to pull another one back for Negri.
Despite ending up on the losing side on the night, Azraai believes his side have every chance of pipping their opponents to a last-four berth when they meet for the return leg on Tuesday as the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium.
"This was a good result and it has given us a boost," he said after the game.
"We did not give up and I'm confident we can do what we have do back home [in the second leg] - it is our fortress after all."
The 59-year-old, who led the Deer to the Malaysia Cup last season and also won it twice with Kedah, admits he was frustrated with his side's profligacy in the opening period, but was ultimately content with the way they responded after the break.
"We didn't take advantage of our chances in the first half," Azraai added. "I told my players they needed to up their game.
"We were lucky with the first goal - a mistake from the opposition keeper that doesn't happen often.However, our second goal will help should the away goals rule come into play.
"We need to give it our all. This is a do-or-die mission for us."
ATM coach B. Sathianathan expressed disappointment his side let their opponents back into the tie, and conceded Farizal was to blame for the visitors' first goal.
"We were leading 2-0 but our mistakes gave them [Negri] the boost they needed to pour forward," he said. "Our defence looked very shaky.
"We need to try our best in the second leg and I hope our keeper will not repeat the same mistake again."
The winner of this tie will meet either Pahang or LIONSXII in the semi-finals, with the former holding a 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg.