Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New goalkeeper ready to help T-Team in Malaysia Cup

He was named after an angel 26 years ago and now Mohd Jibrail Kamaron Baharin has vowed to keep watch over T-Team during the Malaysia Cup campaign. The Pos Malaysia goalkeeper, who is one of two T-Team on-loan signings, said it was a dream come true to be appointed guardian of the posts for the Kuala Terengganu club side.

The former national Under-20 goalkeeper, who plied his trade for Malacca in the Premier League from 2006 to 2009, said it was a rare opportunity to be given a chance to play on football's big stage again.

"I have some big shoes to fill here as former national goalkeeper Samsuri Mustaffa, who is recovering from knee surgery, is a local hero.
"But I have been made to feel right at home in my short time here by the fans and I have a feeling that I am going to have the time of my life in Kuala Terengganu," said Jibrail, who hails from Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

Thus far, he has enjoyed mixed results standing between the posts, conceding six goals in five friendly matches.

T-Team were defeated 1-0 by Sime Darby FC, beat Selangor PKNS 2-0, beat Felda United FC 1-0, lost to Kelantan 3-1 and then drew 2-2 with Terengganu.

T-Team coach Yunus Alif said his new goalkeeper should be close to 100 per cent ready for action when the Malaysia Cup kicks-off on Tuesday when Selangor play them at Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium.

"He still has a few weaknesses to overcome but I know he is working hard to fight Zairie Hafizie Idris for a place in the starting 11.

"Both goalkeepers are good enough for first team action but Zairie, who had stomach surgery last month, may still not be ready mentally to give 100 per cent commitment," he said.

Yunus said he is also pleased with his other on-loan player, Mohd Fitri Omar from Muar Municipal FC who finally scored his first goal in the match against Terengganu on Friday.

"We looked sharp in the Terengganu match and managed to score twice before the FA Cup champions came back to draw level before the final whistle.

"As for the tournament proper, we hope to do well against Selangor on the opening day before taking on Group D rivals Kuala Lumpur and Police," he said.

Malaysia ready for Japan in Olympic qualifiers

Malaysian Olympic squad are in confident mood ahead of this month's Asian third round Group C qualifier against Japan after a recent successful training-cum-playing stint in Slovakia. The team, who were based on Vion, turned in commendable performances to win five of their seven matches against Slovak's top division teams.

Coach Ong Kim Swee used the stint to identify and rectify weaknesses in his team.

"I tested new tactics and rotated players around and all these try-outs worked well," said Kim Swee.
"I would like to think that we are a better side now but it is too early to start making bold statements.

"We did enough to show that our preparation went smoothly but we need to work harder before the qualifiers."

Malaysia began their stint in Slovakia early last month with a 1-0 win over FK Slovan Levice and followed up with victories over FK Bodva Moldava (1-0), MFK Topvar (2-1), MFK Tatran Liptovsky (2-1) and MFK Dolny Kubin (2-0). They were beaten by Budapest Honved FC (4-1) and FC Nitra (1-0).

The squad returned from Slovakia on Sunday and will resume training tomorrow.

Malaysia will start their Olympic campaign against Japan on Sept 21 before two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27). The return legs are scheduled for next year.

Kim Swee has named 22 players for the match against Japan with two notable names omitted from the travelling squad to Fukuoka on Sept 16. They are striker Ahmad Fakri Saarani and midfielder Gary Steven Robbat, who are both suspended.

Three players -- Mohd Fadhli Shas, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and Mohd Irfan Fazail -- who are on loan with FC Vion Zlate Moravce, will only return to KL on Sept 11.

Malaysia will play friendly matches against Iraqi club side Al-Arbil on Sept 9 and the Oman Olympic team five days later before they leave for Japan.

Kelantan goalie ready for national duty in Olympic qualifiers

Malaysian Under-23 goalkeeper and skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is ready to put state duty aside as he focuses on Malaysia’s opening Asian Zone Olympic qualifying tie against Japan next month.

The goalkeeper played a key role in helping Kelantan win the Super League crown this season but will miss the Red Warriors’ Malaysia Cup title defence due to his commitment with the national Under-23 squad.

Khairul will miss Kelantan’s opening match against Premier League runners-up Sarawak at the State Stadium in Kuching on Sept 6 as well as those against Johor FC (Sept 10), Felda United (Sept 13) and Sarawak (Sept 18).

“The national duty is much more important for me ... I need to focus on my task with the Olympic squad first,” Khairul said.

“Only after the match against Japan will I start thinking about helping Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup competition.”

The Under-23 squad are in Group C with Japan, Bahrain and Syria for the final round of the Asian qualifiers.

Malaysia’s opening tie against Japan will be in Fukuoka on Sept 21, followed by home games against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27) at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

The national Under-23 trainees returned to Malaysia from their training-cum-playing stint in Slovakia on Sunday and will resume training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya tomorrow.

They will play two friendly matches against Iraqi club Al-Arbil (Sept 9) and the Oman Olym­pic team (Sept 14) before leaving for Fukuoka on Nov 16.

The 22-year-old Khairul, who is also a first choice with the national senior team, believes that the Slovakia stint would hold them in good stead going into the match against Japan.

“The stint in Slovakia was a learning curve for us and it also showed that the competition level among the players is very high,” he said.

“We did well, winning five matches and losing two in Slovakia. We must now keep that momentum going against Japan.”

Monday, 29 August 2011

Kuala Lumpur struggling to score goals

The lack of killer instinct could see Kuala Lumpur struggle in the Malaysia Cup after ending their pre-tournament campaign with a fifth defeat in six friendly matches.
KL only scored once in the series of warm-up matches and again failed to find the back of the net as they succumbed 1-0 to Premier League side Sime Darby in Bangi on Saturday.

With their Super League top scorer Ahmad Hazwan Bakri called up by the national Olympic squad, KL are short of options upfront with only Yong Kuong Yong and Badrul Hisyam Azmi to rely upon.

"One goal and one draw is just not good enough. We created many chances but wasted them which has been our main problem.
"We also tend to give away easy goals, I don't know if it's because of a lack of concentration or communication," said coach Razip Ismail after watching Sime Darby's Yusri Abas tuck the ball into an empty net when KL goalkeeper Norazlan Razali collided with defender Ahmad Dashila Tajudin.

KL have not made it past the group stage of the Malaysia Cup since 1992 and they face a difficult campaign in Group D against Selangor, Kuala Terengganu T-Team and Police.

"We can't carry this form into the Malaysia Cup. Our preparation has not been good but I hope the players will buck up and change their mindsets," added Razip, who had hoped to see an improvement after the players were paid their two-month salary arrears on Friday.

On a positive note, playmaker Azwan Malek made his second appearance as a substitute after being sidelined since late February after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligaments.

Azwan's range of passing and wide vision are sorely needed as KL struggled in his absence and only escaped relegation on the final day of the Super League season.

Selangor winger Amirulhadi wants to score more goals

Malaysian and Selangor winger Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal is still not satisfied with his performance despite scoring a goal in the 1-1 draw against Negri Sembilan in a friendly match at the Paroi Stadium on Saturday.

Selangor coach K. Devan have been tinkering his under-performing front line and have opted to deploy the pacy flanker to play a more offensive role and spearhead Selangor’s attacks for the Malaysia Cup scheduled for next month.

Selangor have been far from impressive this season and are now left with a serious problem in attack following the departure of national striker Mohd Safee Sali to Indonesian club Pelita Jaya FC in February. Skipper Mohd Amri Yahyah, Rudie Ramli, Mohd Fadzli Saari and R. Sreetharan, the other forwards in the squad, have failed to deliver.

Amirulhadi scored two goals for the Klang Valley Giants in the four friendly matches he played and he believes that he is up to the task to get the goals.

“I don’t see it as big problem for me to step up as the goalscorer for the team and I’m comfortable with my new role,” said Amirulhadi.

“I was tasked to assist the strikers before and I have scored a few goals as well but now the coach wants me to play a bigger role in getting goals in the Malaysia Cup.

“I had missed fair amount of open chances and I’m not really satisfied with my scoring at the moment. My decision making in front of the goal is still lacking but I am confident of doing better when the Malaysia Cup starts.”

The Red Giants ended their seven friendlies matches with four wins, two draws and one defeat.
The 32-time Malaysia Cup winners drew with Felda United (0-0) and Negri Sembilan (1-1), beat Armed Forces (1-0), Malaysia national team (1-0), Sime Darby (1-0), Johor FC (3-1) and lost to defending Malaysia Cup champions Kelantan (0-1).

Selangor’s fortune seems to have deserted them this year as they have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet after finishing third in the Super League and losing in the semi-final of the FA Cup to bitter rivals Kelantan.

Amirulhadi admitted he is unfazed by the pressure to win the Malaysia Cup.

“Pressure to win is something that all players have to face and I’m not too bothered about it.”

“We have a dismal record in the Malaysia Cup for the last two years where we were ousted in the quarter-final and I’m determined to help the team to win the Cup for the 33th time.”

Selangor are drawn in Group D with Kuala Lumpur, T-Team and Police and will start their campaign against T-Team on Sept 6 at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Terengganu.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Malaysia Cup matches might be postponed for Malaysia's friendly against Australia

Decision on whether Malaysia Cup quarter-final matches will be played as scheduled or deferred will only be known after Aidilfitri.

"This is to avoid a clash as the national team coached by Datuk K. Rajagobal has been invited to play Australia in a friendly match on Oct 7," Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad told Bernama here today.

He said the Local Competitions Committe would be meeting soon chaired by chairman Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin, who is also FAM vice-president.

Malaysia's national team (Harimau Malaya) had been invited by the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) to Sydney to play against the Australian national team (Socceroos) on Oct 7.

Australia is one of the world's football power and is also AFC Cup 2011 runners-up.

The meeting would decide whether to continue the Malaysia Cup competition fixtures or amend the dates to make way for the international friendly match.

Azzuddin described the friendly match as an honour as the good performance of the national team had gained the respect of a strong football nation.

"Australia is one of Asia's best 16 teams in the World Cup competition. Although we failed to qualify from the group, they acknowledged the quality of our game," he said.

The Malaysia Cup group stage will start on Sept 6 and ends on Sept 27 while the quarter-finals will be held on Oct 4 and Oct 8 followed by the semi-finals on Oct 14-22 with the final on Oct 29.

Negeri Sembilan vows to do well in Malaysia Cup

National team midfielder S. Kunanlan has warned Negri Sembilan's rivals that his team will be unbeatable in next month's Malaysia Cup.
Negri, the 2009 champions, have been drawn in Group B along with Super League runners-up Terengganu, Premier League winners PKNS FC and newcomers Sime Darby FC.

"We want to end our season on a high after a lame performance in the Super League and FA Cup. We failed in both competitions because our key players were injured," said Kunanlan yesterday.

"But it is a thing of the past as most of them have returned to training. Of course fitness is an issue for those who have just returned, but I believe they will be 100 per cent fit for the Malaysia Cup. 
"We are in a tough group with Terengganu the favourites. We need to treat PKNS with caution as they have quality in them while Sime Darby will be determined to make an impact as debutants."

The Negri FA was expecting its team to make a huge impact in the Super League after signing on several top players in the pre-season.

But it did not go as planned as their progress in the league and FA Cup was hindered by injuries to key players.

Negri's poor run led to the resignation of Wan Jamak Wan Hassan as coach in March. Former national Under-23 coach Azraai Khor Abdullah was then hired but even he failed to lift Negri in Super League.

However, their Malaysia Cup campaign does look promising with the return of the Abdul Radzak twins -- Mohd Zaquan Adha and Aidil Zafuan and centre-back Norhafiz Zamani Misbah.

Zaquan and Norhafiz have both featured in recent friendly matches while Aidil, a centre-back, has started light training upon recovering from an ankle injury.

Kunanlan, who has only scored one goal this season, has been told by coach Azraai to be more aggressive in the Malaysia Cup.

"I have tried hard to score goals but luck has not been kind to me. At times I came really close but I just can't put the ball into the back of the net.

"I admit that my finishing has not been satisfactory and I really wish to address this weakness. I'm looking forward to improving on my finishing."

Negri, who signed defender Munir Amran on loan from Pahang, will kick off their Malaysia Cup campaign against PKNS at the MBPJ Stadium on Sept 6.

Kuala Lumpur players linked with other teams

Kuala Lumpur could lose some of their key players, including midfielder Yong Kuong Yong, defender Shahrom Kalam and goalkeeper Norazlan Razali, next season.

Kuong Yong has been contacted by Kelantan and Johor FC while Shahrom has apparently been in talks with Perak and Johor FC. Norazlan, meanwhile, could see action with Johor FC or Kelantan.

Kuong Yong, who turns 23 on Sept 18, has caught the attention of many, including national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal throughout his stint with KL.

The Negri Sembilan-born lad, however, refused to divulge his future plans and prefers to concentrate on KL's Malaysia Cup campaign instead. KL join Selangor, T-Team and Police in Group D.

"There have been offers but I told them to hold on. I would like to help KL in the Malaysia Cup," said Kuong Yong.

"I believe we have a good chance of advancing beyond the group stage. Selangor are the obvious favourites but we are on par, if not better, than Police and T-Team."

Nevertheless, Kuong Yong stressed the players need to work as a unit to ensure they keep their hopes alive in the critical stages of the tournament.

"I've been attending training without fail. But some of us lack training and we all need to work hard to make this work. We still have time and hopefully we will get better."

More KL players are expected to jump ship as they have not received their wages for several months.

Most have not been attending training regularly and this has affected the team's performance, as seen in the friendly match against Kelantan at the Selayang Stadium recently.

KL suffered a 5-0 defeat in the match. The Red Warriors got their goals through Nurul Azwan Roya (11th minute),

Azamuddin Akil (23rd), Badri Razi (55th), K. Solihin (75th) and R. Surendran (88th).

It is learnt KLFA officials will meet Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin tomorrow to update the latter on the team's current situation and hopefully secure grants to pay the players.

Kuala Lumpur struggling to overcome problems

Kuala Lumpur coach Razip Ismail is in a Catch-22 situation as most of the Kuala Lumpur players have not been reporting for training regularly due to unpaid wages since May.

While the city coach steers away from the episode, insisting it falls under the jurisdiction of KLFA, he is feeling the pressure as the Malaysia Cup campaign starts on Sept 6.

Some of the city players are already courted by other teams ahead of the new season next year.

"I can only do so much as it boils down to the players at the end of the day. They need to seriously buck up," said a frustrated Razip.

"If they carry on playing like this, no way we will qualify beyond the group stage."

KLFA are in the midst of settling the players' overdue wages. Razip and his lads will call Selayang Stadium their new home as the pitch at Cheras Stadium is in a poor state.

The city strikers lacked the sting up front and Razip quickly admitted every department needs to be worked on.

For instance, lanky Muhammad Afiq Azmi failed to capitalise on his height as he missed four good chances in front of goal during a friendly match against Kelantan last Sunday.

"The forwards are missing opportunities in front of goal. There is no proper build up from midfield while the defenders are everywhere. There are a lot of problems and we need to rectify them quickly."

Nevertheless, Razip is optimistic of the squad's chances if the team show some improvement in the coming weeks.

"If the players improve, then we will be able to put up a fight and make it to the quarterfinals."

Police relies on tactical play to get results

Police coach K. Thaiyananthan says his side have exceeded expectations by qualifying for the upcoming Malaysia Cup.

And he attributes tactical play for their good outing in the Premier League instead of individual talent.

However, he conceded that his charges lacked the edge that the likes of PKNS, Armed Forces and Sime Darby possessed.

More often than not, they had to play to the strength of opponents and not their own.

"But I have to credit the players. It was all hard work and commitment. Their collective approach to the game served us well," said Thaiyananthan.

"We do not have the substance as most of our players are from the police force. But what they did possess is good fitness levels and we used that to our benefit."

Police were the only team in the league to play five defenders throughout the season.

They had to compromise in attack and play conservatively to have a chance of walking away with points.

According to Thaiyananthan, the management of the side never laid down any expectations due to the quality of players they had but he had a pep talk with the players at the beginning of the season.

"I told them we've been playing in the Premier League for several seasons but had not achieved anything. It is not about gaining promotion to the Super League but they should achieve something for themselves instead of not progressing as players.

"The Malaysia Cup qualification was something we came to the consensus," said Thaiyananthan.

Police had been grouped together with favourites Selangor, T-Team and KL in Group D.

Negeri Sembilan winger confident about team's chances in Malaysia Cup

Negri Sembilan right winger S. Kunalan is confident they can live up to their pre-tournament favourites billing.

He believes Negri are the favourites together with Selangor, Terengganu and Kelantan because their players have returned from injuries.

"These players served us well last year. We reached the final but lost to Kelantan last year. This time around, we aim to make the final again and win it," said Kunalan.

"Everything has been going well in training and the players are looking sharp."

Kunalan hopes his pace and penetration from the right flank will be able to unlock defences — as that style of play served him well when playing for Malaysia.

Negri Sembilan did not enjoy a good outing in the Super League, finishing in the bottom half of the 14-team contest.

However, many believe the return of stalwarts Mohd Norhafiz Zamani Misbah and Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak will assist the team.

The duo missed the Super League through long-term injuries and they will be eager to make up for lost time.

Success in the Malaysia Cup will surely be a sweet redemption.

"It's good to see them back. They are important players to the team," added Kunalan.

However, Kunalan is disappointed that Zaquan's twin Aidil is still injured and is unsure when he will return.

Aidil has been hit by injuries which saw his appearances limited, even for the national team.

Aidil walked out with a dejected look when injury forced him to be subbed out early on in the World Cup round two qualifier second-leg against Singapore last month.

Negri are in Group B together with FA Cup runners-up Terengganu, Premier League champions PKNS and Sime Darby in the Malaysia Cup.

Felda United need to overcome lack of goals

Felda United need to buck-up and sort out their attacking woes if they are to progress out of the group stages in the upcoming Malaysia Cup.

That is the message from skipper Khaironnisam Sahabudin Hussain to his teammates.
"The honeymoon period is over. We must start performing or else we will be lagging behind other teams," he said.

Felda, in their maiden appearance in the Super League, finished 11th scoring only 22 goals in 26 matches.

"If you look at the table, we could have finished higher if our attack was more lethal.

"Coach E. Elavarasan noticed this weakness. We are trying several new tactical approaches to remedy this problem.

"Hopefully, one of it will serve us good," said Khaironnisam.

The Kedah-born skipper is the most experienced player in the Felda squad and is no surprise when he was given the captain's armband after the departure of previous captain Nazrulerwan Makmor to Pahang.

Khaironnisam skippered the national team until 2007 and later went on to lead the MyTeam in 2009.

"It is nothing new to me. I enjoy the responsibility of leading the team on and off the field," said the 31-year-old.

Khaironnisam believes the experience some of the younger players benefited from the Super League season can only benefit the team in the long run.

"No doubt we didn’t perform in the league but we must put that behind us. The younger players have shown potential.

"Hopefully, they understand the history of the Malaysia Cup and that alone can be a motivating factor," he said.

Felda were formed only in 2009 and took just two seasons to climb up the ranks from the lower tier FAM Cup to Super League.

They have been grouped in Group C with Super League champions Kelantan, Johor FC and Premier League runners-up Sarawak.

"Kelantan are no doubt the favourites but anything can happen in football," he said.

PKNS striker Zamri wants to score more goals

PKNS FC striker Mohd Zamri Hasan is facing the consequences of finishing as the Premier League's top scorer in their 2009 campaign, with teams having earmarked him as a threat.

He found the back of the net 20 times in 2009, but in the recently concluded campaign, Zamri only netted 11 goals.

He did miss five games due to injury but he does not feel that was the reason for his lower conversion rate.

"It was harder last season because I was getting more attention from defenders. Every time I got the ball within shooting range, I see several defenders around me.

"I need to put in more effort in training to improve, mainly in finishing," said Zamri.

The 30-year-old admits he has a lot to improve if he were to make a mark in the Super League next season but for now, he has set his sights on the club's Malaysia Cup campaign.

"We have been only training for two week since returning from Mecca. We have been rusty in our friendly matches but there are signs that the team is back to its best," he added.

"Players are fighting for places in the starting line-up and that it is good sign."

PKNS paid for all their Muslim players to perform their Umrah as a reward for winning the Premier League and subsequently gaining promotion into the Super League.

The team overcame Armed Forces 4-0 and KL 1-0 but was on the receiving end of a 2-0 loss to T-Team in their friendly matches over the last couple of weeks.

The Premier League champions have been drawn in Group B with FA Cup winners and Super League runners-up Terengganu, Negri Sembilan and Premier League side Sime Darby.

"We must win both games against Sime Darby and hope to get points off Terengganu and Negri Sembilan. Only then will we have a chance of progressing into the knock-out round," said Zamri.

3 Malaysian players set to play in Slovakian League

Three Malaysian Under-23 players – midfielders Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and Mohd Irfan Fazail and defender Mohd Fadhli Shas – are set to create history by becoming the first Malaysians to feature in the Slovakian League with ViOn Zlate Moravce.

The three players were with the national Under-23 squad for a training-cum-playing stint in Slovakia and will be on loan with Zlate Moravce for three months – until November.

The trio were scheduled to make their debut against FK Senica in the Slovakian League late yesterday after getting their International Transfer Certificate (ITC) clearance on Friday.

Last year, Zlate Moravce were interested in offering contracts to Mohd Muslim Ahmad and Gary Steven Robbat but nothing came out of it. The national Under-23 team, who were in Slovakia from July to prepare for the final round of the Asian Zone Olympic qualifying tournament next month, will return home today.

The trio, however, will only return home on Sept 11.

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee believes that the trio’s absence will not disrupt his preparations for their opening Asian Zone qualifiers against Japan on Sept 21. “I don’t think that the three players’ late return will disrupt our preparations as we will have 10 days to train together before we take on Japan,” said Kim Swee.

“Wan Zack, Irfan and Fadhli played well in all the seven friendlies in Slovakia and they deserve the loan stint. I strongly believe they can excel at this level.

“I believe the trio will return wiser and will add more strength to the team.”

Kim Swee’s boys recorded an impressive five wins and two losses in the seven friendlies against Eastern Europe club sides.

They lost 1-4 to Hungarian side Honved Budapest on Aug 9 and 0-1 to FC Nitra of Slovakia on Tuesday.

Their five wins were against FK Slovan Levice (1-0) on Thursday; Bodva Moldava (1-0, July 26); Topolcany (2-1, July 30); Mikulas Liptovsky (2-1, Aug 2); and Dolny Kubin (2-0, Aug 16).

Malaysia will play two Test matches against Iraqi club side Al-Arbil on Sept 9 and the Oman Olympic team on Sept 14 ahead of their match against Japan in Fukuoka.

The Under-23 squad have been drawn in Group C with Japan, Bahrain and Syria in the final round of qualifiers. After opening their campaign against Japan, Malaysia will face Syria on Nov 23 and Bahrain (Nov 27) at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Safiq Rahim and Safee Sali to have trials with English clubs

The race to get the first Malaysian player to England is on after Cardiff City offered national team captain Safiq Rahim a two-week long trial at the Championship club.
This development comes just a day after Safiq's national teammate Safee Sali was given a similar opportunity by Queen's Park Rangers and the national skipper could be in Cardiff as soon as his involvement with Selangor in the Malaysia Cup is over.

Although there are plenty of obstacles in the way of Safiq actually being signed by Cardiff, not least the issue of a work permit, Cardiff chairman Datuk Chan Tien Ghee believes it is only right that the club offers one of Malaysia's best talents a chance to show his worth.

"We had put it to Safiq to have a trial with us during the international break on Sept 8 when we will be holding a game for several others on trial. We are hoping he can play a part in that match.
"We watched him during (Malaysia's) matches against the English teams and we think he is a fine player. When we spoke to him about it, he seemed really excited about the prospect," said Chan in a telephone interview from Cardiff yesterday.

The Sept 8 trial, however, is unlikely to happen as the Malaysia Cup kicks off two days earlier but Safiq, 24, is understood to be making arrangements to fly to Cardiff in November when he will train with the Welsh club's first team.

Chan said midfielder Safiq, who has also attracted the interest of several Indonesian Super League teams, would have to be patient if he hopes to land a contract with Cardiff.

"We are a Malaysian controlled club and it falls on us to grab this opportunity to give a Malaysian player a trial. If we don't make the first move without actually seeing him here, you never know what the prospects might be.

"There are all kinds of things to sort out but we'll take it step by step," said Chan, referring to the difficulty for a non-European Union player from a country ranked outside's Fifa's top-70 to obtain a work permit in Britain.

On Thursday, QPR owner Tan Sri Tony Fernandes invited Safee, 27, for a trial with the Premier League club with a view to signing a permanent deal. However, Safee too could be stymied by the stringent work permit requirements given Malaysia's Fifa ranking of 146.

Negeri Sembilan to rest players for friendly against Selangor

Negri Sembilan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah has decided to rest his key players for their final friendly against Selangor at the Paroi Stadium today (10pm).

This comes in the wake of striker Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak’s latest knee injury in the 2-0 victory over Johor in a friendly on Wednes­day.

Zaquan, who only returned to the team earlier this month after undergoing two anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgeries on his left knee, escaped with a minor meniscus tear this time.

“I’m excited to have my players back and I don’t want to lose any player to injuries unnecessarily,” said Azraai.

“I could not sleep well after Zaquan’s injury. So, when he called me to inform me that it was just a meniscus tear, I was hugely re­­lieved.

“He just needs rest to let the injury heal and he should be back in action after the Hari Raya Aidilfitri break.”

Defender Munir Amran, who is on loan from Pahang, will also give tonight’s match against Selangor a miss due to a groin injury.

However, stalwart Mohd Norhafiz Zamani Misbah will be back to add more steel to Negri’s backline.

Negri, who have Terengganu, Sime Darby FC and PKNS in Group B, will kick off their Malaysia Cup campaign against Sime Darby on Sept 6 at the Paroi Stadium.

Cardiff City to give trials to Safiq Rahim

Malaysian skipper Safiq Rahim is set to undergo trials with English Division Two club Cardiff City.

Club chairman Datuk Chan Tien Ghee said in an telephone interview from London yesterday that Selangor skipper Safiq had accepted an offer to attend trials after the Malaysia Cup in late Octo­ber.

“If everything goes well, Safiq will be the first Malaysian to play in England. We will give him a full trial ... the full works ... just like any other player,” assured Tien Ghee yesterday.

Safiq said that he had set his mind on plying his trade in Europe and would not want to let go of this golden opportunity to undergo trials with the English club.

“I have spoken to Datuk Chan and I am prepared to try my luck with Cardiff. Yes, it is a big challenge but I am game for it ... I want to be the first Malaysian to play in the English League,” said Safiq.

However, it will be tough for any Malaysian to ply his trade in the UK.

To qualify for a work permit, a non-Euro­pean Union player must have featured in at least 75% of his national team’s “A” level matches and his country must have averaged at least 70th in FIFA’s world rankings. While Safiq is a regular with the national team, the country’s ranking of 146 works against him.

“If he (Safiq) qualifies ... then we will do everything possible to get him over here. We are aware of the tough qualification conditions for Asian players but, if we don’t try, we will never make it,” said Tien Ghee.

“Let’s not worry ... for now we want Safiq to attend trials and then we will cross the bridge when the time comes.”

Tien Ghee also welcomed his counterpart Tan Sri Tony Fernandes’ ambition to send national striker Mohd Safee Sali for trials with his newly-acquired English Premier League club Queens Park Ran­gers.

“I was also contemplating trying out Safee, but I read that Tony wants to try him out for QPR. It is good for Malaysian football,” said Tien Ghee.

Kuala Lumpur might not sign foreign players due to financial problems

The Kuala Lumpur FA (KLFA) may not hire foreign players next season due to financial constraints.

KLFA president Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz said it would be tough for them to meet the extra costs of hiring the imports and managing the Super League team with a RM3mil budget.

“We may not hire foreign players unless we get a positive feedback from other sponsors,” Astaman said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said they were still negotiating with a few sponsors to help fund their operational costs for the Malay­sian Super League (MSL) and the KLFA Academy in Taman Melati, Hulu Kelang, which is expected to open in January.

The City team, under head coach Razip Ismail, are expected to feature an all-local line-up despite the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) decision to lift the ban on foreign imports next season.

Each team will be allowed to have only two foreign players. Those hired from the Asean region must be national players while those from the Asia and Oceania regions must be from Division One clubs. Those from other continents will have to be playing for at least Division Two clubs.

Team manager Nokman Mustaffa said that the players were in high spi­rits ahead of the Malaysia Cup competition next month after receiving their two-month backpay yesterday.

“We are optimistic of making the cut for the quarter-finals. We have a young team with no star players. But we are capable of going through,” warned Nokman.

KL, three-time champions, are drawn in Group D with Selangor, T-Team and Police for the Malaysia Cup competition.

Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, who is the KLFA patron, handed over a cheque for RM350,000 from sponsors KL City Hall to the team management yesterday.

Astaman said the RM350,000, which is part of the annual grant from KL City Hall, was a timely boost for the team and officials ahead of the Hari Raya celebrations.

KL City Hall’s annual grant is RM600,000 while the subsidy from the FAM is RM300,000.

“We are working on getting long-term financial partners to fully manage the KLFA Academy, which will follow the training module of (English Premier League giants) Liverpool. We hope to tie up with Liverpool FC in November,” said Astaman.

The KLFA Academy comes with a hostel and can accommodate 50 boys (ages 14-17). The other facilities include a futsal court and a training ground.

Malaysia still waiting for reply from Syria over Olympic qualifer date

Malaysia has yet to receive a reply from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on a request to postpone the Olympic squads third round qualifying match against Syria on Nov 23.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad said FAM had written a letter to Syria and AFC, requesting for a postponement of their Olympic Qualifier on Nov 23, since it clashed with the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia.

He added that Malaysia had appealed to play the match a day later, on Nov 24, since the SEA Games would take place from Nov 11-22.

"We have briefed and state our predicament to them and I have heard that verbally, Syria had indicated to the AFC that they (Syria) will accommodate our request. However, I have yet to receive an official reply," he told reporters here today.

The Olympic squad under coach Ong Kim Swee has been given the task to play in the SEA Games and the Olympic Qualifier.

Malaysia kick off their SEA Games campaign on Nov 7, while the final has been scheduled on Nov 22.

However, in the Olympic Qualifier, Malaysia are slated to play Syria on Nov 23 and Bahrain on Nov 27.

Azzuddin said FAM's request to postpone the match to Nov 24, was legitimate since the FIFA regulations require players to have at least 48 hours rest after an international assignment before playing another match.

Meanwhile, Azzuddin said Malaysia had accepted an offer from Australia to play a friendly match on Oct 7, here.

"We received a request from Australia two days ago and I have discussed the request with coach Datuk K.Rajagobal and team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal. Yesterday, I had also informed President Sultan Ahmad Shah," he said.

The request from Australia is indeed an honour since Australia are ranked among the top 16 teams in Asia, he said.

Kuala Lumpur and Liverpool to set up football academy

The Kuala Lumpur Football Association (KLFA) are expected to finalise details of an agreement with English Premier League club, Liverpool FC, to set up an academy in Malaysia.

 KLFA President Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz said an agreement was expected to be signed in November if KLFA was able to secure sponsorship to run the academy for the long term.

 "KLFA has approached a number of sponsors to work out a long term financial plan to fund the academy and the Super League team," he told reporters after accepting an annual contribution from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) here today.

 Astaman said if the Liverpool-KLFA academy project materialises, it would be the first Liverpool academy outside England.

 He said the academy was taking shape in Taman Melati and expected to be completed and ready for operations by January 2012.

 Meanwhile, KLFA who received a RM350,000 contribution from DBKL, are expected to use the money to pay the salary of players and officials who have not received their salary for three months.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Under pressure Johor FC beats Kuala Lumpur in friendly

Under pressure Johor FC coach Azuan Zain breathed a sigh of relief after watching his team finally show signs of life with a 2-1 friendly win over Kuala Lumpur in Bangi on Tuesday.

A series of uninspiring performances in Johor FC's pre-Malaysia Cup preparation, including defeats to Selangor (3-1) and Johor (4-0), left Azuan desperate for his side to find some form ahead of their opening Malaysia Cup Group C match against Felda United in Pasir Gudang on Sept 6.

Johor FC's main problem has been scoring goals with striker Shahrizal Saad managing only five in the Super League to emerge as the club's top scorer.

Rashid Aya, with four goals, was their next highest scorer and he was on target against KL, scoring the winner three minutes from time.

Azuan was pleased to see his side recover from going a goal down in the first half to a Badrul Hisyam Azmi strike before Irfan Abdul Ghani levelled proceedings with a fine free-kick.

"In the first half, we did not play very well and gave KL too much possession. In the second half, we settled down after I changed the system to 4-1-4-1 and began to pose more of an attacking threat.

"These are only friendly matches so we cannot read too much into the result. I wanted to see how the players coped with the new system and I feel they are adapting well," said Azuan after the match at the Maybank Training Centre.

Last year's run to the Malaysia Cup semi-finals, where they were ousted 2-1 on aggregate by Negri Sembilan despite winning the away leg, raised expectations for Johor FC to match or better that achievement.

The longest surviving club in Malaysian professional football since earning promotion to then Premier 2 in 1998, Johor FC have Super League champions Kelantan, Felda and Sarawak for company in a tough Malaysia Cup group.

Safee Sali to have trial with Queen's Park Rangers

New Queen's Park Rangers owner Tan Sri Tony Fernandes will hand two Malaysian national players, including Safee Sali, a trial at the English Premier League club.

Fernandes said QPR manager Neil Warnock was impressed with Safee after watching tapes of the Pelita Jaya striker, who was instrumental in Malaysia's AFF Cup triumph last year.

"Neil Warnock saw tapes of Safee and he was very impressed. We're hoping to bring him and one other over for a trial after the transfer period closes," Fernandes told radio station yesterday.

"The potential for a Malaysian (player) to be noticed is much bigger now that we are here (in England)."

Safee, who joined Indonesian Super League side Pelita from Selangor early this year, would not be the first Malaysian to go on trial at an English club.

Kedah winger Baddrol Bakhtiar and Selangor's Bunyamin Umar attended a two-week training stint with Chelsea in 2008 while Sabah's Liverpool-born goalkeeper Syed Adney Syed Hussein had trials with Middlesbrough and Darlington.

But if Safee is to have any hope of playing in England, QPR would need to overcome stringent British work permit requirements as Fernandes acknowledged.

"We have some issues with the ranking (of the national team) and work permit. We'll deal with it when the time comes," added Fernandes.

To qualify for a work permit, a non-European Union player must feature in at least 75 per cent of his national team's 'A' level matches and his country must have averaged at least 70th in Fifa's world rankings.

While Safee is a first choice for Malaysia, the country's ranking of 146 works against him.

It was the same fate that befell former national midfielder Lim Chan Yew in 2005 when he was about to sign with Bournemouth, then in the English Third Division, only to fail to obtain a work permit.

Safee will return to Selangor, albeit for a one-off outing, at the annual Sultan of Selangor's Cup clash with Singapore in Shah Alam on Oct 1.

Safee will be one of four guest players, including three Britons, who will turn out for Selangor to level the playing field against a Singapore side dominated by naturalised players.

"We hope to have three players from Britain and Safee to balance the Selangor team against a strong Singapore side," said organising chairman Datuk Abdul Karim Munisar on Wednesday.

Lack of competitive matches affects Sabah

Sabah still have a long way to go in their bid to land their first ever Malaysia Cup title.

Head coach Justin Ganai said the Rhinos have come close before on three occasions but ended up playing bridesmaid to Selangor and Selangor MPPJ. They lost to Selangor twice in the final in 1996 (on penalties) and in 2002 (extra-time, 0-1) while MPPJ beat them 3-0 in the final in 2003.

This time, their hopes of making waves and stage a serious assault for the Malaysia Cup looks slim because of poor preparations.

“It’s true we have no good sparring partners here and we have only played against local club sides. Due respect to these clubs ... it’s just not the ideal preparations for a state team ahead of the Malaysia Cup competition.

“It is no point winning matches 11-0 and 14-0 because my boys don’t learn against lowly opponents.

“It is a pity we are unable to travel out (Peninsula Malaysia) for better sparring matches. We need to play against stronger teams to identify our weakness.

“This is a setback for the players and it appears we have a mountain to climb when we play against the big guns of the competition,” said the veteran coach from Kota Kinabalu yesterday.
Sabah have been drawn in Group A with Kedah, Perak and Johor.

To make matters worst the team have not been able to train at home for a week because of maintenance work at the Likas Stadium for an international event, which Sabah will host next month.

To compound the problem Sabah are now forced to play all their home matches first against Perak (Sept 6), Kedah (Sept 10) and Johor (Sept 17).

“We are putting undue pressure on the boys to play all the three home matches in a row. I would have preferred the original schedule having to play one home game followed by three away matches. We need the element of luck under these conditions and hopefully we can collect points in the home matches,” said Justin.

Sabah will be counting on senior hands – Zainizam Marjan, Stanley Bernard, Farid Ederis and Razlan Otto – to lead the charge for goals while the other seasoned hands include Mohd Reithaudeen Emran, Sumardi Hajalan, Zuraindey Jumai, Rosdin Wasli, K. Thanaraj, Radzi Hussin and goalkeeper’s Syed Adney Syed Hussein and Azizon Kadir.

Justin has almost two decades of coaching experience with Sabah after having started as an assistant to Kelly Tham in 1992 before assuming the head coach post in 1999.

“He had also served under foreign coaches Ron Smith, Ken Shellito, Ken Worden and David Woodfield.

“We nearly brought home the Malaysia Cup in 2003. We hope that next year, with the inclusion of foreign players, we can stage a more concerted effort to achieve our dream of winning the Malaysia Cup,” said Justin.

Malaysia to play Oman to prepare for Olympic qualifiers

Malaysia will play a final test match against the Oman Olympic team on Sept 14 ahead of their Asian Zone final round qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee said that the match against Oman in Kuala Lumpur will be the right tonic for the boys before they open their Asian Zone campaign against Japan in Fukuoka on Sept 21.

“It is good we have managed to find a strong opponent before playing Japan. It will serve as a good preparation for the boys,” said Kim Swee in an telephone interview from Slovakia yesterday.

Kim Swee is currently with the National Under-23 squad in Slovakia. A total of 30 players left for Slovakia on July 23 for a training-cum-playing stint against Slovakian Division One clubs and are scheduled to return home on Sunday.

The boys will be given a three-day break for the Hari Raya holidays and will resume training at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Sept 1. A friendly match against an Iraqi Premier League side Arbil SC has also been lined up for Nov 8 before the team leave for Fukuoka on Nov 16.

 Kim Swee has named 22 players for the match against Japan with two notable names ommitted from the travelling squad to Fukuoka on Nov 16. They are striker Ahmad Fakri Saarani (pic) and midfielder Gary Steven Robbat, who are both serving out suspensions.

Another three players Mohd Fadhli Shas, Wan Zack Haikal and Mohd Irfan Fazail will extend their stay in Slovakia with Division One club side Vion FC on loan until Sept 11.

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) are awaiting a reply from the Syrian FA whether they would be able to postpone the home game on Nov 23 to allow Kim Swee’s boys more time to rest as they have to concentrate on the Olympic qualifiers and the SEA Games in Indonesia.

Kim Swee, who handles the Harimau Muda A team, has been given the mandate to take charge of both the assignments (Olympic qualifiers and SEA Games) but the former international will find it almost impossible to field his best team for the two competitions because of the tight playing schedules.

The SEA Games football matches will kick off on Nov 7 and the final is on Nov 22 while Malaysia’s campaign in the Olympic qualifiers begins with an away match against Japan on Sept 21 followed by two home matches against Syria and Bahrain on Nov 23 and 27 respectively.

Malaysia, who won the SEA Games gold medal after a lapse of 20 years in 2009, will start as the favourites in Indonesia and assuming they qualify for the final (on Nov 22) there is no way they can play the Olympic qualifying match against Syria in Kuala Lumpur the following day (Nov 23).

Under FIFA competition regulations the players must have 48 hours of rest after an international game.

The FAM are in a quandary and may have have to find other options including placing an Under-23 “B” team and a coach on standby for their SEA Games campaign if the Syrian FA do not agree to a postponement of the match on Nov 23.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Johor's tough stand on match-fixing benefits team

Premier League outfit Johor were the first team to nip match-fixing in the bud by taking quick and firm action when they booted out four players in May, apart from taking other action to check the spread of the disease.
The four players were sacked with immediate effect after a Johor FA council meeting on May 9 found them "guilty" of match-fixing.

The reward was a top four finish which was enough to qualify for the Malaysia Cup although Johor's initial target was to finish in the top two and earn promotion to the Super League.

Drawn in Group A with Kedah, Perak and Sabah for the Malaysia Cup, the 1991 double champions are now gunning for a quarter-final berth - which means they need to finish in the top two in the group.
Team manager Datuk Aziz Sapian strongly believes his team will be the "surprise package" in the tournament.

"We have done enough to gain recognition for the team. A fourth place finish in the Premier League and a place in the Malaysia Cup is enough motivation for the team," said Aziz.

"Match-fixing nearly derailed us at one stage, but we nipped the disease in the bud and booted four players from the team. This was enough to send a strong message that we will not tolerate any nonsense and that we mean business.

"We also took other remedial solutions to stop the rot. At one stage Johor were in a good position to challenge for promotion until this disease came into the picture.

"I dare say that if we had found evidence of match-fixing earlier we would have been there at the top. But that is history now as we look forward to take Johor football to new heights. We aim to go far in the Malaysia Cup and take off from there for the new season.

"We are well prepared. Kedah, Perak and Sabah are about the same standard as Johor, so much will depend on how we fare at home.

"To be ready to face our rivals, we have played several tough friendly matches away, including some against Singapore clubs. The results have been very encouraging. We even beat Super League 'brothers' Johor FC 4-0 in a friendly. This is very motivating for a young team like Johor.

"More importantly, the players know we mean business. They are aware that we keep track of their movements and anyone caught doing the 'unwanted' will be severely dealt with. These young players now know the consequences they face if they are found doing wrong."

Terengganu use friendly to prepare for Malaysia Cup

IT'S all quiet in Terengganu ahead of the Malaysia Cup. But that's not unusual for the team who won the FA Cup and finished second in the Super League.
"It's like a tradition for us not to be involved in too many friendly matches," said head coach Irfan Bakti, who has lined up just one friendly match before the start of the Malaysia Cup on Sept 6.

"We will play T-Team on Friday (tomorrow) and that should be good enough as they had earlier played against two of our Group B rivals Selangor PKNS and Sime Darby FC," said Irfan.

"I heard T-Team beat Premier League champions PKNS but lost to Sime Darby. I figure we should know where we stand when we meet on Friday." Irfan said, unlike other teams, Terengganu were also not too busy in the on-loan transfer market which ended earlier this month.
"We had our eye on one or two players but in the end, we opted for Terengganu-born Young Tigers defender Mohd Faizal Muhammad.

"The 21-year-old has settled down quickly as he knows almost everyone in the team. I have a feeling he will do well covering for Zubir Azmi who is away with the Olympic squad," said the coach.

Terengganu out to win back Malaysia Cup after 10 year wait

FA Cup winners Terengganu hope to end a 10-year wait to make the Malaysia Cup final when the competition kicks off on Sept 6.

Terengganu, drawn in Group B together with Sime Darby FC, PKNS and former champions Negri Sembilan.

Terengganu will, however, have an uphill task against Negri who won the Cup two seasons ago.

Head coach Irfan Bakti who guided the team to a memorable FA Cup win over Super League champion Kelantan has reminded his players to not underestimate the opposition, especially teams like Sime Darby and PKNS.

“We have to make a winning start to ensure we top the group.

“But I have continuously reminded my players against being over confident or underestimating the capability of others,” said Irfan yesterday.

“I feel this year is the best opportunity for Terengganu to win the Malaysia Cup because we have seven players in the team who were picked to play for the national team.

“Their contribution will be valuable.”

Terengganu last won the Malaysia Cup 10 years ago.

Malaysia requests Syria to change Olympic qualifier date

Syria hold the key to resolve the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) predicament over the clash of dates for their Asian Zone final round qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics and the SEA Games Under-23 football competition in Indonesia.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Alex Soosay said that only the Syrian FA could resolve the problem.

“The AFC has no objections. It is the onus of the FAM to get their counterparts to agree on the change of dates and if it is a mutual consent then, we can all come to an agreement to amend the fixture,” said Alex yesterday.

The FAM have written to AFC and the Syrian FA over the matter and are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping to hear a favourable reply soon.

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee, who handles the Harimau Muda A team, has been given the mandate to take charge of both the assignments (Olympic qualifiers and SEA Games) but the former international will find it almost impossible to field his best team for the two separate competitions because of the tight playing schedules.

The SEA Games football matches will kick off on Nov 7 and the final is on Nov 22 while Malaysia’s campaign in the Olympic qualifiers begins with an away match against Japan on Sept 21 followed by two home matches against Syria and Bahrain on Nov 23 and 27 respectively.

Malaysia, who won the SEA Games gold medal after a lapse of 20 years in 2009, will start as the favourites in Indonesia and assuming they qualify for the final (on Nov 22) there is no way they can play the Olympic qualifying match against Syria in Kuala Lumpur the following day (on Nov 23).

Under FIFA competition regulations the players must have 48 hours of rest after an international game.

The FAM are in a quandary and may have have to find other options including placing an Under-23 “B” team and a coach on standby for their SEA Games campaign in Indonesia.

The FAM have proposed that their home match against Syria be pushed forward by one day from Nov 23 to 24.

But Syria, who are scheduled to play Japan away next on Nov 27, may not be too keen with the change because they would have only two days to acclimatise in Japan before the match.

If Syria rejects the proposal then it is up to the FAM to decide on plan B. There are a few options and one is to form a “B” Team or for Kim Swee to juggle his players between the SEA Games and the Olympic qualifiers. It is going to be messy but it is now up to the Syrian FA.

Kim Swee is currently with the National Under-23 squad in Slovakia. A total of 30 players left for Slovakia on July 23 for a training-cum-playing stint against Slovakian Division One clubs and are scheduled to return home on Aug 28.

Kim Swee said that the SEA Games matches would be a good build-up for the players and felt that the only possible way for him to handle both assignments was for AFC to reschedule the dates for the Olympic qualifiers against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27).

The expectations are high on Kim Swee’s boys to qualify for the final at the SEA Games but for the Olympic qualifiers they will definitely find life much tougher in the final round (last 12) after having defeated Pakistan (2-0 on aggregate) and Lebanon (2-1 on aggregate) in the opening two rounds.

Asia have 3.5 slots for the London Olympics. The 12 winners in the second round are divided into three groups of four teams each for the final round and the matches will be played from Sept 21-March 14. The group winners qualify for the London Games.

The second-placed teams will then play off at a centralised venue from March 25-29 and the winners will face an African side for a place in the Olympics.

For the record, Malaysia have only qualified twice for the Olympics – in 1972 (Munich) and 1980 (Moscow).

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Johor FC worried over poor form

Their best has been the semi-finals - in 2008 when they lost to Selangor 2-1 on aggregate -- and last year when Negri Sembilan stopped them from a historic place in the final by a similar score line.
Things look no better for club side Johor FC in this year's Malaysia Cup which kicks-off on Sept 6, having been drawn with defending champions Kelantan, who have established themselves as the new powerhouse in the game in the country.

Kelantan are also the reigning Super League champions and Charity Cup holders.

The other teams in Group C are Felda United, who are rich in experience and coached by E. Elavarasan, and newly promoted Sarawak, who are helmed by the wily Dutchman Robert Alberts, a former national coach.

Inconsistency has been Johor FC's main fault and this was seen in the Super League when they plunged to a lowly seventh after a fourth place last year and third in 2009.

And Johor FC's poor showing in the pre-Malaysia Cup friendlies have not drawn any encouraging results so far.

The most embarrassing was the 4-0 defeat to Johor, who play in the lower Premier League, a 1-1 draw against Negri and a 3-1 beating at the hands of Selangor, are statistics that are cause for concern.

Club president Ahamad Mohamad drove home the message when he said the team "lack a good motivator and leader" when voicing his disappointment with the team's management and coach Azuan Zain.

Johor FC secretary Tahir Hamdan, however, was more accommodating and said that the results of the friendly matches must be taken with a "pinch of salt".

"These are just warm-up matches as the coach tries out his match plans ahead of a tough competition like the Malaysia Cup. I believe that Johor FC will be able to hold their own against the challengers for a place in the quarter-finals," said Tahir.

"Kelantan look too strong and have the credentials to go far in the Malaysia Cup this season. After all they are the best football team in the country now. The second slot for a quarter-final berth is a battle between Felda, Sarawak and Johor FC.

"We have played Felda in the league and know their capabilities. They have an experienced team and the players to ride on while Sarawak are an unknown quality. However, the fact that they have earned promotion to the Super League speaks of their ability to stretch us."

Johor FC were again slow when coming to sign players who could have given the team more depth and plug the loopholes upfront.

Instead, Johor settled for another defender - Saiful Nizam Miswan from Pahang.

The club, who have never failed to qualify for the Malaysia Cup, have been struggling to get their act together upfront with former international Eddie Helmi Abdul Manan, national trainee Shahrizal Saad, signed from Perak this season, and Azizan Baba, all struggling to find the net.

Injured Kelantan striker struggling to be fit for Malaysia Cup

Kelantan’s on-loan striker R. Surendren is racing against time to get fit for the Malaysia Cup competition.

The 27-year-old Pahang striker suffered a minor fracture on his foot barely a week after joining the Red Warriors.

The former international is set to be out for a couple of weeks and looks doubtful of playing in the east coast side’s opening match against Sarawak in Kuching on Sept 6.

“It is an untimely injury but I’m confident of making a quick return even before the knock-out stages, I’m undergoing treatment now and I’m expected to join the team in training next week,” said Surendren yesterday,

Kelantan have signed Surendren and Pahang’s Azamuddin Akil on loan to strengthen their strike force for the defence of their Malaysia Cup title. They have been overly dependent on Norshahrul Idlan Talaha to deliver the goals during en route to winning this year’s Super League title.

The nippy Surendren, noted for his ability to nick a goal as a substitute, sustained the injury during the friendly match against Police last Thursday.

“I’m looking forward to my partnership with Norshahrul and hopefully win my first Malaysia Cup medal with Kelantan. It means a lot to me to end with the champions medal after finishing bridesmaid twice,” said Surendren, who was with Perak (2005) and Selangor (2008) when they finished runners-up.

Surendren played a key role in the Red Giants’ treble success in the Charity Shield, FA Cup and Super League titles in 2009. Last year, he bagged more than a dozen goals for Selangor and also scored the winner in their 2-1 win over Negri Sembilan in the Charity Shield match.

This year Surendren managed only four goals for Pahang and started his stint with Kelantan on a positive note by scoring a goal in the 5-0 demolition of Kuala Lumpur in a friendly on Aug 15.

Meanwhile, Kelantan coach Datuk M. Karathu believes that keeping his players injury free will be vital before the Malaysia Cup tournament starts and has warned the players to be extra careful in their next two friendlies against T-Team today and Songkhla FC on Friday.

“We have two more friendly matches and I believe it will be enough for us before the Malaysia Cup starts,” said Karathu.

“We are working hard on our preparation and avoiding injury will be a top priority and I don’t want to lose players to injuries.

“Surendren and left-back Zairul Fitree Ishak are certain to miss our opening match but the return of Norshahrul from injury is good news for us. I believe we are on the right track towards our title defence.”

Kelantan who are grouped with Johor FC, Felda United and Sarawak in Group C, will kick off their campaign against Premier League runners-up Sarawak at the State Stadium in Kuching on Sept 6.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

T-Team aiming for Malaysia Cup success

Beware of Sime Darby FC!
That is the advice T-Team coach Yunus Alif has for his Terengganu counterpart Irfan Bakti, who must deal with the Premiership side along with Selangor PKNS and Negri Sembilan in Group B of the Malaysia Cup.

Yunus, who recently saw his side lose to Sime Darby by a solitary goal in a friendly match in Kuala Lumpur, said he would not rule out the club side who routed Pahang 6-0 on aggregate to qualify for the Malaysia Cup, going far in the competition.

"Perhaps we did underestimate them a little in the warm-up match but we certainly did not think that a team who finished fifth in the Premier League could put up a fight like that," said Yunus.
"We were not all bad on our trip to Kuala Lumpur last week as we managed to beat Premier League champions Selangor PKNS 2-0 before winning 1-0 over Felda United FC."

Yunus said new on-loan signings -- Pos Malaysia goalkeeper Mohd Jibrail Kamaron Baharin and Muar Municipal Council striker Mohd Fitri Omar -- had little trouble fitting in with their new teammates.

"They may have plied their trade in the FAM League this season but both players do not look out of place in a Super League team.

"Jibrail stood between the posts when we lost to Sime Darby but he managed to save enough shots to impress me and the rest of the coaching staff.

"Similarly, Fitri, top scorer in the FAM League this year, looked comfortable upfront and was involved in all the goals scored against Selangor PKNS and Felda United FC," said the coach, who thought Fitri made a potent combination with Indra Putra Mahayuddin.

Fitri's convincing performance comes at the right moment as Norfarhan Mohamad has a slight ankle injury.

"We also need to see Fitri playing alongside Haris Safwan Mohd Kamal and we hope to do that when we take on Kelantan in a friendly match in Kota Baru tomorrow (today) or when we play Terengganu on Friday.

"By then, we should be ready to challenge for Malaysia Cup honours and we should be able to steer our way past Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Police in Group D to make the next round."