Friday, 30 September 2011

Sabah confident about beating T-Team

Sabah are ready to prove their doubters wrong by knocking out T-Team in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

Head coach Justin Ganai said he was “really surprised” to see his team not only survive but top Group A, which comprised former champions Kedah and Perak.

“The fighting spirit of the players was really evident as we managed to qualify for the quarter-finals. The support of the fans is priceless ... they never stopped believing in us,” said Justin, adding that “the team’s never-say-die-attitude was the key to their success”.

Justin acknowledged that Yunus Alif’s T-Team, also very much the underdogs of the competition like his own side, are stacked with formidable players in all positions.

“We will not underestimate them but, mark my words, we are gunning for them,” said Justin.

“They have experienced players like Indra Putra Mahyuddin and Mohd Norfarhan Mohamad who can be match winners but I am confident my players will give their best.”

Justin said that although his players had improved after the group matches in the Malaysia Cup, “they must remain focused on beating T-Team”.

“Our defence, led by Reithauddin Awang Emran, has managed to make it hard for any team to score against us. Goalkeeper Azizon Abdul Kadir has also been rock solid in protecting our backline,” he said.

He added that Zainizam Marjan and Mafry Balang would spearhead Sabah’s attack.
“Both have the ability to breach T-Team’s defence,” he said.

Selangor and Singapore prepare for battle

Singapore will parade most of their national players in the annual Sultan of Selangor’s Cup football match against the Selangor Selection at the Shah Alam Stadium tomorow.

The Lions, under coach Radojko Avramovic, will be powered by five naturalised players – Aleksandar Duric, Qiu Li (forward), Shi Jiayi, Mustafic Fahrudin (midfield) and Daniel Bennett (defence).

Selangor coach P. Maniam will have his hands full against the same Singapore side who beat the national team (6-4 on aggregate) in the Asian Zone second round qualifying match for the 2012 Brazil World Cup in July.

The Red Giants, who squeezed into the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, will be boosted by the return of national striker Mohd Safee Sali.

Selangor have also been given added firepower following the inclusion of two former English Premier League (EPL) players – Jason McAteer and Jesper Blomqvist.

This year’s Sultan of Selangor’s Cup is the 10th in the series. Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had initiated the event in 2001 to foster better ties between Selangor and Singapore.

There will be two matches on Saturday.

The first will be between the Selangor veterans and their Singapore counterparts (8pm) and the second match will see the Selangor Selection taking on the S-League Selection (9pm).

The champions of the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup will receive RM50,000 and the runners-up RM10,000.

Tickets, priced at a flat rate of RM10 for the two matches, are available at the Quality Hotel (Shah Alam & Kuala Lumpur), Concorde Shah Alam and Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia ready to take on Australia

Malaysia will not be overawed by Australia, who will have the likes of English Premier League trio Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill in their side, in the international friendly in Canberra on Oct 7.

National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal said the match would be a test of character for his players.
He said that Australian head coach Holger Osieck had maintained the same set of players who defeated Thailand (2-1) and Saudi Arabia (3-1) in their opening two matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers recently.

“They are a top class side and we are going to take the friendly seriously in our preparation for the 2015 Asian Cup,” he said after the national squad’s training session at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.

Rajagopal expects the national team to give a decent account of themselves in Canberra “although we will be without several key players, who were dropped due to poor form”.

“Yes, we have left out some key players but that will give others a chance to show their abilities. I am building a team for the 2015 Asian Cup Finals and I am prepared to take risks along the way,” he said.

“I have done it before and those who don’t live up to my expectations will have to go. There will be no compromise.

“In Canberra, I will be looking for players with strong characters and to get the right chemistry as I continue to build a side to challenge for the Asian Cup Finals, So far, the team has been shaping up well in training and we should be ready in a few days’ time.”

Among the players dropped were skipper Safiq Rahim, Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal, Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin, Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, Azmi Muslim and goalkeeper Mohd Sharbinee Allawee.

National striker Mohd Safee Sali joined the national team in training yesterday after returning from a two-week stint with English Division Two side Cardiff City.

Safee is expected to partner Norshahrul Idlan Talaha upfront.

For the record, Malaysia and Australia have met six times since 1965, with the Aussies having won five times.

Malaysia’s only win – 1-0 – came in their last encounter in the Anniversary Cup in Jakarta back in 1992.

Australia are using the friendly as preparation for their World Cup Asian Qualifier against Oman in Sydney on Oct 11

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Safee Sali wants to play in Australian league

Safee Sali has expressed a desire to play in Australia should a move to Cardiff City fail to materialise. The national striker returned to Kuala Lumpur yesterday after undergoing a two-week trial at the Welsh club where he impressed manager Malky McKay.

But Safee's hopes of landing a contract with the English Championship club could be stymied by red tape owing to England's stringent work permit requirements for footballers whose country is ranked outside of Fifa's top-70 list.

While not wanting to get his hopes up, the Pelita Jaya forward is already thinking of the A-League where the standard of competition is much higher than the Indonesian Super League.
"It has been an exciting and valuable two weeks in Cardiff where I learnt a lot which, hopefully, will make me a better player. The training there is much faster and more intense than what I've been used to and I hope to put into use what I've learnt into my next match," said Safee upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday.

"I can't comment much on my situation with Cardiff as you all know the problems I'll have with getting a visa (work permit). It's out of my hands so we'll see what happens next."

Safee will be suiting up for his former side Selangor in the Sultan of Selangor's Cup exhibition against Singapore in Shah Alam on Saturday before joining the national team in preparation for a friendly against Australia on Oct 7.

That match in Canberra is where Safee hopes to impress watching scouts with an eye to earning an offer from one of the A-League's 10 teams.

"It would great to play in the A-League as it is a tough and strong league. If I get an offer, then it is definitely something worth considering. But all I can do is to try to play to my best and hope for something to turn up," said Safee, whose club Pelita Jaya's financiers, the Bakrie Group, has ties with A-League club Brisbane Roar.

Safee said he is excited at the prospect of pitting his skills against some of Australia's best players on Oct 7 and could even lead the side out in the absence of dropped skipper Safiq Rahim.

"We have not played Australia for so long so it would be really exciting to play against a player like Tim Cahill. As for the captaincy, it is the coach's decision but if I am given the arm-band, then it would be an honour," said Safee, who led Malaysia in the World Cup second round second leg Asian qualifier against Singapore when Safiq was suspended.

Kelantan and Terengganu set for early battle in quarter finals

Given a choice, Super League champions Kelantan and FA Cup winners Terengganu would have preferred to avoid each other this early in the Malaysia Cup.
But the teams will square-off against each other in the quarter-finals -- a repeat of this year's FA Cup final -- after Terengganu failed to top Group B when group leaders Negri Sembilan managed to hold them to a goalless draw in Kuala Terengganu on Tuesday.

Kelantan, meanwhile, emerged Group C winners after beating Felda United 2-0 in Kota Baru on the same day which allowed the club side to make a date with Negri Sembilan in the quarter-finals on Oct 10 and Oct 14.

Kelantan coach M. Karathu said it was unfortunate that either Kelantan or Terengganu, who are genuine title contenders, will have to bow out early. 
"Both teams are arguably the best in the country this season and it will be a pity to see one leave the competition early," said Karathu.

"Honestly speaking, I thought Terengganu would have beaten Negri Sembilan but that is football I guess."

Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti said his team dominated the first 15 minutes before the match was halted for almost an hour due to bad weather.

"We were creating chances from the first whistle but we lost our dominance when play resumed after the storm," said Irfan.

Thankful that none of his players picked up injuries, Irfan said it was not all that bad meeting Kelantan in the quarter-finals.

"If not in the quarter-finals, the teams would have to face each other sooner or later, so we might as well get this over with as soon as possible.

"This is also good for the fans as I do not think there is a bigger match than the face-off between the two East Coast teams," he said.

Selangor coach credits players and former coach after making quarter finals

Chants of "P. Maniam, P. Maniam" rang out at Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday after the caretaker coach guided Selangor into the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals in a scene far removed from events just 10 days prior.
Selangor's come-from-behind 2-1 win over Kuala Lumpur secured second spot in Group D and was Maniam's second consecutive win in charge since replacing K. Devan.

Devan resigned after receiving abuse from Selangor fans in the aftermath of a 2-1 home defeat to Kuala Terengganu T-Team, which threatened to derail their bid for a 33rd Malaysia Cup title.

Maniam, however, refused to take credit for Selangor's revival as he praised his players' effort in overturning a 1-0 half-time deficit to take their place in the last eight.
"I did not win this game, the players did. They gave it their best on the pitch and credit should go to them. They gave 200 per cent commitment and play with great spirit.

"We played possession football and although we made mistakes in the first half, we improved in the second half and played much better," said Maniam.

Shahrom Kalam put KL ahead with a header in the 37th minute but his Selangor counterpart, rightback Razman Roslan brought the home team level in the 65th with a fine volley.

Amri Yahyah turned match hero as Selangor broke KL's resistance with a 76th-minute header to book a quarter-final tie against Group A winners Perak.

When asked if Selangor can go all the way to win the title, Maniam said: "Let's not talk about that yet. We have a quarter-final against Perak and we are only focused on that now.

"We have 10 to 12 days to prepare for the next match and in between we have to play the Sultan of Selangor's Cup match (against Singapore on Saturday).

"Then we will turn our attention to the quarter-final with full commitment," added Maniam, who guided Selangor to the Malaysia Games final in Malacca last year.

While Selangor appear to have turned a corner, Maniam felt that they were also capable of qualifying for the quarter-finals if Devan had stayed on.

"I believe Devan is one of the best coaches around and I learnt a great deal from him. I thank the management for giving me this chance and I leave it to them to decide on the future," he said.

Kelantan worried goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi may get burnout

Kelantan fear that ace goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat may suffer from burnout even before the season ends.

The 22-year-old, who is known as “apek”, is a regular starter for state and national teams.

The Kelantan custodian started out as a rookie on the international scene last year and got his big break following injuries to regulars Mohd Farizal Marlias and Mohd Sharbinee Allawee at the Asian Games in Guangzhou last Novem-ber.

Since then, Khairul has dislodged the two seniors in the fight for the number one jersey. He became a household name when he played a pivotal role in Malaysia’s success in the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships in Jakarta last December.

Kelantan team manager Azman Ibrahim hopes that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will not tax the player.

“The player deserves some rest ... I think he has been playing non-stop since the beginning of the year. We are not being selfish, we are just concerned about his future. We don’t want to see his performance going down because of our doing. This boy has talent and we have to protect his future. Otherwise, he will be burned out one day,” said a concerned Azman from Kota Baru yesterday.

Besides the hectic domestic schedule, Khairul’s calendar also includes the Asian Zone final round (Under-22) qualifying campaign for the 2012 London Olympics, the SEA Games (Under-23) in Indonesia and the national senior team’s high-profile friendly against Australia early next month.

On Sept 21, Khairul played in the Asian Zone final round qualifying match against Japan in Fukuoka and returned home for the Malaysia Cup competition. On Saturday, he picked up a knock in his thigh against Johor FC and did not play in Kelantan’s last group match against Felda United on Tuesday.

Azman said that Khairul reported for centralised training with the national senior team at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday. The team are preparing for the friendly against Australia in Canberra on Oct 7.

“Fortunately, Khairul’s injury is not a bad one. Yesterday, we have received a fax stating that Khairul and three other players were needed for a warm-up tournament in Vietnam in preparation for the SEA Games. The warm-up tournament will be held in the middle of next month, at the same time as the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals and semi-finals,” said Azman.

He also said that Khairul had played more than any other national player since the beginning of the year.

Besides his obligations with Kelantan, Khairul has also been involved in either centralised training or competitions – which includes the friendlies against visiting English Premier League teams Arsenal and Liverpool – and Malaysia’s pre-World Cup matches against Pakistan and Hong Kong since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, a total of 26 players have been called up for the trip Down Under next month.

Selangor back in form under new coach

What a difference one week makes in football.

Last week, it was all doom and gloom in the Selangor camp. With qualification to the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals uncertain, they parted ways with head coach K. Devan.

His assistant P. Maniam took over the reins for their remaining two Group D matches. His task was simple: Make sure Selangor win both the matches to qualify for the knockout stage.

And he did just that, guiding his men to a 4-1 win over Police on Saturday and edging Kuala Lumpur 2-1 on Tuesday.

Now, Maniam has vowed that nothing’s going to stop the Red Giants from going for a record 33rd title, starting with their quarter-final match-up against Perak.

“It’s like coming back from the dead,” said Maniam yesterday.

He’s right. Selangor could have been dead and buried during the penultimate round of group matches on Saturday when T-Team, who topped the group, did Selangor a big favour by holding Kuala Lumpur to a 1-1 draw in Kuala Terengganu. If KL had won that match, Selangor would have been history.

“We have a new lease of life. At one stage we were completely helpless but luckily we made it,” said Maniam, who added that his team would continue to train harder for the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, KL skipper Shahrom Abdul Kalam said “we are crushed” after missing out on a quarter-final spot in the Malaysia Cup.

They should be. After all, they had played attractive football and only lost one match in the group stage.

“It’s not fair that we did not qualify for the quarter-finals ... we only lost one match in the group and we are out of the competition,” said Shahrom.

“I’m disappointed with the result (against Selangor), we were leading and should have won but we panicked towards the end and it cost us.”

Terengganu to maintain attacking game against Kelantan

Terengganu face an explosive Malaysia Cup quarter-final match-up against Kelantan but coach Irfan Bakti insists that his players will continue to play the same kind of attacking football against their east coast neighbours.

Irfan said Terengganu would be ready to face Kelantan on Oct 10 and that they would treat the opposition just like any other team.

“There will be no special preparation to face Kelantan ... we prefer to play our own brand of football. We will not change our style of play,” he said as the two teams prepare for a rematch of their FA Cup final clash this season.

Terengganu won 2-1 in extra time in the FA Cup final in June.

Terengganu were drawn to face Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals after emerging as Group B runners-up following their 0-0 draw against Negri Sembilan in a match hampered by a freak storm and wet pitch at the Sultan Ismail Stadium here on Tuesday.

Irfan conceded that his men could have avoided a match-up against Kelantan if they had got their act right against Negri Sembilan.

“We could have avoided Kelantan if we had defeated N. Sembilan. Any match against Kelantan will be a torrid affair until the last minute. We will field our best starting eleven and I am confident they can get the job done,” he said.

“If we can get past our toughest hurdle – Kelantan – then we will greatly improve our chances.”

Irfan said the Turtles had no injury problems and that his players would be fresh and fit after 12 days’ of rest.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Selangor aim for revenge against Singapore

The Red Giants will not let history repeat itself when they take on the S-League Selection in the annual Sultan of Selangor’s Cup football competition at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.

Selangor head coach P. Maniam said he wanted his men to erase the humiliating 6-0 bashing they received at the hands of the visitors last year.

“It was a difficult game then as we had to face a strong Singapore side in the midst of our domestic calendar. The players barely had enough rest and went into the game only hours after arriving from Kota Baru,” said Maniam yesterday.

“But we will be better prepared this time.”

Singapore’s towering striker Aleksandar Duric, who scored a brace in the Lions’ thumping victory last year, will again lead the attack with the support of creative flankers Qiu Li and Shia Jiayi.

Maniam said he was aware of the threat posed by the strong S-League Selection, who are made up of mostly their national players.

“It is not a new experience to face Singapore ... but the fans’ expectations are high. In fact, even our national team could only hold them to a 1-1 draw in a pre-World Cup match in July,” said Maniam, who added that he would work out their game plan when they begin training tomorrow.

The Selangor coach will be counting on national striker Mohd Safee Sali, who has just completed a two-week training stint with English Division Two side Cardiff City, to lead the quest for goals on Saturday.

Safee had left Selangor early this year to join Indonesian Super League side Pelita Jaya FC.
Selangor have also been given added firepower following the inclusion of two former English Premier League (EPL) players – Jason McAteer and Jesper Blomqvist – in their side.

McAteer and Blomqvist, who once played for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, are expected to join the Selangor training session on Friday.

This year’s Sultan of Selangor’s Cup is the 10th in the series. Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had initiated the event in 2001 to foster better ties between Selangor and Singapore.

There will be two matches on Saturday. The first will be between the Selangor veterans and their Singapore counterparts (8pm) and the second match will see the Selangor Selection taking on the S-League Selection (9pm).

The champions of the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup will receive RM50,000 and the runners-up RM10,000.

Tickets, priced at a flat rate of RM10 for the two matches, are available at the Quality Hotel (Shah Alam & Kuala Lumpur), Concorde Shah Alam and Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur.

Former Malaysian coach Sathianathan to manage Armed Forces

Former national coach B. Sathianathan will take charge of the Armed Forces side in the Premier League next season.

The 53-year-old former Kelantan coach, who guided Kelantan to their historic Malaysia Cup success last year, has signed a one-year contract with the Armed Forces FA.

“I had a few options but what piqued my interest was the Forces’ vision. It’s a new challenge ... my task is to take them into the top flight in 2013,” said Sathianathan.

Besides wanting to play in the top flight, the Armed Forces also aim to play a significant role in the development of the game by setting up a Football Academy and to make waves at international competitions like the AFC Cup and Champions League.

“The team will comprise army personnel. As for areas where we lack quality, we will hire outsiders, including foreign players,” said Sathianathan.

Sabah and Selangor book quarter final places

Sabah and Selangor clinched the final two tickets to the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals from Group A and D respectively in contrasting fashion yesterday.

While Sabah coasted to a 4-1 win over Johor in their last Group A fixture at the Larkin Stadium, the Red Giants had to stage a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Kuala Lumpur at the Shah Alam Stadium.

The other teams who had qualified earlier were Perak (Group A), Negri Sembilan, Terengganu (Group B), Kelantan, Felda United (Group C) and T-Team (Group D).

Sabah and Kedah, both with seven points each, were vying for the runners-up slot in Group A going into last night’s matches but the Canaries could only draw 1-1 with Perak at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar. Syafiq Jamal scored for Perak in the 53rd minute before Faizal Abu Bakar equalised for Kedah three minutes later.

Race you to it: Selangor’s Mohd Razman Roslan (left) and Kuala Lumpur’s Mohd Dzaiddin Zainuddin tussling for the ball during their Malaysia Cup Group D match at the Shah Alam Stadium last night. — SHAHRUL FAZRY ISMAIL / The Star In Group D, it was a direct contest between Selangor and Kuala Lumpur for the runners-up slot.Kuala Lumpur needed just a draw while Selangor needed a win.

The Red Giants, who have won the Malaysia Cup a record 32 times, lived dangerously in their do-or-die mission against their Klang Valley rivals before finally prevailing to finish with 10 points in Group D.

Goals from Razman Roslan and skipper Mohd Amri Yahyah in the 66th and 77th minutes respectively completed Selangor’s comeback from a goal down to revive Selangor’s hopes of winning their 33rd Malaysia Cup.

KL dominated the first half and capped it with skipper Mohd Shahrom Abdul Kalam’s bullet of a header in the 38th minute.

But Selangor started the second half with more purpose as they went searching for an early equaliser.

And it duly came, thanks to defender Razman’s effort off a corner kick.

Inspired, Selangor continued to attack and the City boys wilted under the onslaught.

Hard-working skipper Amri proved to be Captain Marvel for the Red Giants when he headed home the winner, also off a corner kick, in the 77th minute.

The win enabled the Red Giants, who were at one time staring at an early exit and who parted ways with coach K. Devan, to finish second in Group D and set up a quarter-final date with Group A champions Perak.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Kelantan worried over injury to goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi

Defending champions Kelantan are through to the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals after a hard fought 1-1 draw against club side Johor FC in Pasir Gudang on Saturday but coach Datuk M. Karathu is more concerned with the thigh injury picked up by his first choice goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
Also cause for concern is S. Chanturu, who was stretchered out in the 66th minute with a recurring ankle injury. He was replaced by Mohd Izuan Solehudin.

"I will only know the extent of his (Chanturu's) injury when we get to train tomorrow (today). The match got a bit rough in the second half and some players picked up some hard knocks. Chanturu was one of them," said Karathu.

Khairul picked up a thigh injury after a clash with a Johor FC player midway in the first half and did not come out to play after the break. He was replaced by second choice Mohd Shahrizan Ismail as Kelantan held on for a draw and a place in the last eight. Also, they can thank Johor FC's poor finishing for collecting the vital point to advance.

Kelantan, however, had some anxious moments especially when news filtered through that newly promoted Sarawak had stunned high-riding Felda United 1-0 in Kuching, the hosts piled on the pressure looking for the winner which never came.

A win for Johor FC would have given the club a fighting chance of advancing as their last match Group C match is against Sarawak at home tomorrow while Kelantan and Felda battle it out in Kota Baru to complete the preliminary round fixtures. In the first round Felda upset Kelantan 2-0.

"I did not want to take any chances with Khairul. I want him for the later stages of the competition. Now that we are through, I will not play him in our last match against Felda. I doubt if he will fully recover in time for the Felda match. I will not take the risk of fielding him," said Karathu.

"I knew Johor FC would come charging as they had a fighting chance of staying alive in the Malaysia Cup if they beat us. Johor FC showed quality teamwork and are a tough nut to crack.

"It was not an easy match for us. I am not happy with the team's overall performance. We conceded a first minute corner and paid the price, allowing Johor FC to strike when we had hardly settled down. Luckily we managed to get an early equaliser.

"Things can only get tougher from now and we have to be ready for that."

In the quarter-finals, Group C champions will play the runners-up of Group B, which means it will either be Terengganu or Negri Sembilan.

Kelantan, already with the Charity Shield and Super League title in the bag, are hot favourites to retain the Malaysia Cup which they won for the first time last year.

T-Team aiming high after reaching quarter finals

Malaysia Cup debutants T-Team must be walking tall now that they have clinched a berth in the quarter-finals.

Coach Yunus Alif said the team's target of making the last eight was achieved with a 1-1 draw with Kuala Lumpur at Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday.

"All we need now is a positive result in our last group match against the Police on Tuesday (today) and we will be group winners," said Yunus, who has had his fair share of problems after taking over the Kuala Terengganu Football Association team late last year.

The coach did not have the best of starts when T-Team were dumped from the FA Cup in the opening round and he was once ordered to take "indefinite leave" and his services were almost terminated after a string of bad results in the Super League.

Even prior to the Malaysia Cup, Yunus said his position as head coach was still precarious as rumours were rife about him being replaced yet again.

"I was finally given the vote of confidence, and now here I am with my boys about to play in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals in our very first attempt," said the coach.

"Somehow, we all feel this is just the beginning for us and we believe we have what it takes to progress beyond the quarter-finals."

Depending on the results of the last group matches, T-Team -- who are expected to beat Police today -- will meet either Kedah or Sabah from Group A as Perak will emerge group champions regardless of how their away match against Kedah ends.

Meanwhile, Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti, who is equally excited now that his team are also through to the quarter-finals, said T-Team have proved to be genuine Malaysia Cup title contenders.

"I do not know of any other team in the country who have the ability to beat Selangor four times in a row but T-Team did just that, home and away, this season," said Irfan.

"They had also beaten Super League champions Kelantan twice in the league and every other quarter-finalist, including us, should be afraid of them."

Irfan, who is not too concerned with his quarter-final opponents, said his aim is to finish the preliminary stage as Group B winners by beating Negri in Kuala Terengganu today.

"We will meet either Kelantan or Felda in the quarter-finals and judging by the form of both teams, either will be more than a handful for us.

"It's a good thing we have about two weeks before the next round begins as we are not quite ready yet. There are a few things to be looked into," he said.

More than pride at stake in Kuala Lumpur-Selangor derby

Today's Klang Valley derby promises to be no ordinary encounter as Selangor and Kuala Lumpur put it all on the line when they meet in a pivotal Malaysia Cup Group D clash at Shah Alam Stadium.

The derby, which used to captivate fans inside and outside of the city's borders, has lost some of its lustre in recent years but there is nothing like a Malaysia Cup survival contest to recapture the romance of years gone by.

Selangor and KL will be in the spotlight today along with Kedah and Sabah in Group A as only two more spots remain to be decided for the quarter-finals.

Perak have already won Group A, Kuala Terengganu T-Team need just a draw against Police in Paroi to top Group D, while Terengganu and Negri Sembilan and Kelantan and Felda United go head-to-head to decide positions in Groups B and C.

That leaves Selangor and KL, who drew 0-0 in Selayang on Sept 13, as the only teams in direct confrontation for a last eight berth with Razip Ismail's city side in the unusual position of leading Selangor by two points.

A draw would be enough for KL to go through while only a win would suffice for Selangor, who have had to deal with the shock of K. Devan's resignation during the tournament.

Selangor caretaker coach P. Maniam guided his side to a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Police on Saturday and will be looking to salvage their season by preserving their seven-match unbeaten run in the derby.

"It will be no ordinary derby, that is for sure," said Razip, whose side remain unbeaten in their last six matches.

"There is no older and younger brother situation here. If we remain unbeaten after tomorrow's (today's) match, then we are through.

"But to play for a draw is a dangerous thing especially since Selangor will be attacking all out. But they can't attack all the time and we must look to exploit the opportunities, going forward.

"We will employ a balanced game, attacking and defending in equal measure and I believe we can hold them off."

KL have been boosted by the availability of talented forward Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, who missed six matches due to suspension and national Olympic duty and marked his return by scoring the equaliser against T-Team on Saturday less than a minute after coming on at half-time.

"Having Hazwan around is a great boost as he gives our attack more bite. He saved the game for us against T-Team and I'll be fielding him from the start," said Razip, who will rely on Hazwan, Yong Kuong Yong and Badrul Hisyam Azmi to break Selangor's defensive line.

Unfortunately for KL, they have history against them, having won just once in 18 visits to Shah Alam and that, too, 11 years ago in an FA Cup tie nor is their record against Selangor in the Malaysia Cup any better, winning just two of 13 matches.

KL did hold Selangor 1-1 in Shah Alam in the Super League this season and a repeat of this score line would be enough to end Selangor's "Mission 33".

Safee Sali hoping to play for Cardiff City

Malaysia striker Safee Sali, 27, leaves for home today with hopes that one day he will return as a player with Cardiff City.
After two weeks of trials with the Malaysian-owned team, Safee, dubbed the "Malaysian Beckham" by a Welsh newspaper, was full of enthusiasm.

Watching the Cardiff City versus Leicester City match on Sunday, Safee was a known figure among the Cardiff City crowd, mingling and signing autographs.

"I have really had a good experience here, one that is beneficial for my football career, and also one that will benefit the national team," he said.
"The training here is indeed more professional and there is much to learn from them; full concentration, speed and fast and decisive actions. Their standards are really high," he said.

"Football is a team game and I know what I bring back with me will benefit my team. This kind of opportunity is indeed very valuable and I hope many more will have the chance to train here and together, we can form a top team for the country."

It is the striker's hope that he would be able to play with the team but for now, he said it was up to Cardiff and their manager to evaluate his abilities.

And then there is the visa issue, which Safee could not comment much about as it all depended on whether he is selected by the club.

"I do hope to play for the club as I have done my best but it is up to the manager here and also the visa."

Terengganu not worried about opponents in quarter finals

With assured qualification to the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals, Terengganu are not bothered as to who they will face in the knock-out stage.

Instead, coach Irfan Bakti said he was more concerned with the players’ consistency rather than worry about their future opponents. Their top priority is putting away Negri Sembilan in the last preliminary round match tonight.

“Victory against Negri is very important as we want to maintain our form. It is also a revenge mission as our opponents had beaten us in the first round in Paroi earlier this month,” said Irfan, who added that the team must make use of the advantage of playing at home.

Irfan said if the Turtles beat Negri to top Group B they would meet the second team in Group C and if they lost, Terengganu would clash with the champions of Group C.

“Our opponents will be either Kelantan or Felda United. Both are tough challenges,” said Irfan.

Irfan said he would field his strongest side against Negri as they aimed to get all three points.

“Every player will be playing tomorrow except midfielder Mazlizam Mohamad, who is injured,” he said.

Perak qualifies for quarter finals despite problems

A young and depleted Perak side have surprised the pundits by claiming a quarter-final berth in the Malaysia Cup with a match to spare.

They even started their Cup campaign without five key players who were suspended. On Saturday, more woes came their way in the 2-1 win over Johor at the Larkin Stadium.

The victory confirmed their last eight ticket but another three players joined the crocked list in the bruising battle and will not be available for their last preliminary round Group A match against Kedah at the Darulaman Stadium tonight.

Veteran defenders Chan Wing Hoong and Mohd Khairi Zainuddin and on-loan Harimau Muda midfielder Mohd Rafiuddin Roddin picked up knee injuries at Larkin and will most probably join midfielder Harizul Izuan Abdul Rani (dislocated shoulder) on the sidelines.

 Surprise package: Perak’s Mohd Failee Mohd Ghazli (centre) is one of the team’s impressive youngsters in the Malaysia Cup. — Bernama Perak coach Norizan Bakar is thankful that his team have confirmed their place in the last eight.

“It is a disaster. I have five players suspended and the injury list keeps going up and soon I won’t have a team at all,” said Norizan after arriving in Alor Setar yesterday.

“Our youngsters have not only played above themselves but have confidently stood up to be counted during our time of need.

“It is also a big relief for the entire team that we have already confirmed out ticket to the knock-out stage ahead of time. I dare not imagine what sort of nightmare we would have been put through if we had waited until the last match to do so.”

The quintet of Shahrulnizam Mustapha (skipper), Akmal Rizal Rakhli, Syazwan Roslan, Azmeer Yusoff and Nazril Nourdin are serving a seven-match ban for the May 19 fracas during the Super League match against Sabah. They will only be available for the second leg of the quarter-finals.

Despite the setback, Perak ended up – along with Kuala Lumpur – as the only two unbeaten teams in the on-going Malaysia Cup.

The 13 points from their four wins and a draw are enough to make them Group A champions.
Norizan’s endless problems and the fact that they have qualified for the last eight is a relief to Kedah who are hoping to save themselves the blushes of being prematurely shown the exit in the Malaysia Cup.

Kedah are in the running for a last-eight berth after their slim 1-0 win over Sabah on Saturday which left the two teams with seven points going into the last match in the group.

Sabah play Johor while Kedah will be hoping that Perak field a weakened side in their decisive clashes tonight.

Six teams book quarter final places in Malaysia Cup

Former Malaysia Cup champions Negri Sembilan and reigning FA Cup champions Terengganu stand in the way of Kelantan’s bid to make the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup competition.

The Red Warriors are scheduled to face either 2009 Malaysia Cup winners Negri Sembilan or newly-crowned FA Cup champions Terengganu in the last eight.

Kelantan and Felda United have won their tickets to the quarter-finals with one match to spare from Group C after both teams picked up an unassailable 10 points each. The two teams will wrap up their group fixture against each other at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru tomorrow.

The quarter-final draw will pit the winners of Group C against the runners-up of Group B and the runners-up of Group C playing the winners of Group B.

Negri and Terengganu both have 12 points in Group B. The two teams will play each other in the last match at the Sultan Ismail Stadium in Kuala Terengganu tomorrow.

Kelantan team manager Azman Ibrahim said meeting either Terengganu or Negri in the quarter-finals would be an explosive affair.

“The last group matches will decide our opponents but both are strong contenders for the title,” said Azman yesterday.

Negri won the Malaysia Cup in 2009 when they beat Kelantan 3-1 while Terengganu edged neighbours Kelantan 2-1 after extra time in the FA Cup final this season.

Meanwhile, six team are through to the last eight.

They are Perak (Group A), Negri, Terengganu (Group B), Kelantan and Felda United (Group C) and T-Team (Group D).

The race for the other two slots are between Kedah and Sabah in Group A and Selangor versus Kuala Lumpur in Group D.
Kedah and Sabah are both tied on seven points. Kedah will face Group A winners Perak in the last game at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar while Sabah will travel away to Johor.

Selangor are back from the dead and will be fighting with KL in a direct contest for the last slot in Group D. Selangor, currently third in the standings with seven points, need a win but the City team, on nine points, need only a draw at the Shah Alam Stadium tomorrow to progress to the next round.

Safee Sali returns to Malaysia after 2 week stint at Cardiff City

Malaysian striker Safee Sali will return to Malaysia today, following a two-week training stint at Cardiff City, under the watchful eyes of manager Malky Mackay.

The 27-year-old football hotshot hopes to return to the Welsh club as a player and said the tempo of the game here was “much more intense” than where he plays in Malaysia, and for his current Indonesian club, Pelita Jaya.

His arrival was highly publicised in local newspaper reports and Safee was even seen signing a few autographs for fans while watching Sunday’s match between Cardiff City and Leicester City.

“After playing with the reserves and even the first team in training, I have found the game here to be very much quicker.

“You do not get so much time with the ball. It is a whole new and different level,” said Safee when met at the Cardiff City Stadium.

“The training has gone well and all my team-mates gave me a really warm welcome. Although it has been just two weeks, I have learned much since I have been here. God willing, I may return to play here in the near future,” he added.

On Mackay, Safee described the manager, as “a very honest, kind and nice person” and that he had a pleasant experience working with him, as well as everyone else in the squad.

Safee, who has been previously described by Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock as ‘the David Beckham of Malaysia’ will return to Malaysia today to prepare for an international match against Australia next month.

Australia will face Malaysia for the first time in almost 20 years in a friendly in Sydney on Oct 7.

FIFA and FAM conducting goalkeeping seminar

The World Football Federation (FIFA) in association with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) are conducting a four–day international seminar, which started yesterday, to improve the quality of goalkeeping for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

FIFA course instructor Pat Bonner said the seminar would utilise the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as the case study to analyse current goalkeeping trends and the latest technical and tactical approaches towards improving the skill level of goalkeeping instructors.

“The participants will be exposed to what goalkeepers, coaches and instructors do,” the Irishman said yesterday.

The former Celtic goalkeeper Bonner was part of the famous Republic of Ireland team which played in the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

 In good company: Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy played for the Republic of Ireland alongside Pat Bonner at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The team consisted of players like Paul McGrath, Niall Quinn, John Aldridge and Mick McCarthy and Bonner is best remembered for his famous penalty save from Daniel Timofte of Romania at the 1990 World Cup in Italy during the knockout stage.

At present, the 41–year–old Bonner is also the coach at Ireland’s National Coaching and Training Centre for Goalkeepers.

He said that the seminar was a starting point for the participants to enhance their skills, attitudes and characteristic as instructors when they return to their own countries.

Thirty participants from 21 countries including Australia, China, France, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and England are attending the seminar.

Apart from the seminar, the participants will also be putting their knowledge to use on artificial turf at Bukit Jalil to train Under-12 goalkeepers from clubs in Klang Valley.

They would also be analysing the Malaysia Cup match between Selangor and Kuala Lumpur at Shah Alam Stadium tonight.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Kedah trying to avoid early Malaysia Cup exit

It was only a few years ago – in 2007 and 2008, to be exact – that Kedah were celebrating back-to-back treble success in Malaysian football.

Now, however, the Canaries are facing the prospect of an early exit from the Malaysia Cup after collecting just four points from four matches in Group A.

Perak lead the way in the group with 10 points while second-placed Sabah have seven points. The fourth team in the group, Johor, have only one point.

Kedah need to collect full points from their two remaining matches, otherwise they can kiss goodbye to their hopes of making the knockout stage. But their task has been made even more difficult as they have to take on Sabah and Perak in their remaining fixtures.

Kedah entertain Sabah tonight before wrapping up their group fixtures with a clash against Perak on Tuesday.

Former national coach Wan Jamak Hassan, however, is not about to throw in the towel despite the odds being stacked against them.

“Our fate in the Malaysia Cup is in our own hands,” Wan Jamak said in a telephone interview from Alor Setar yesterday.

And he is counting on a little bit of help from Lady Luck when the Malaysia Cup competition resumes after a week-long break.

With Sabah being just three points ahead of them, Wan Jamak knows that the door to the quarter-finals is not closed yet.

That is why it is crucial for Kedah to beat Sabah.

“We lost 2-1 to Sabah at Likas earlier this month largely because of our hectic schedule, which saw us travelling to away matches in the first round. My Canaries are well rested now and we will be a different proposition at home this time,” said Wan Jamak.

“If players like Badrul (Bakhtiar), Fauzi Nan and Amar Rohidan can regain their form and deliver the goods, we can at least go into our final group match knowing that we can still make the knockout stage.”

And, as usual, Kedah will be counting on national players – midfielder Mohd Khyril Muhymeen and leftback Azmi Muslim, who have scored seven goals between them – to keep their flickering hopes alive at the Darulaman Stadium tonight.

Former EPL players to play for Selangor Selection against Singapore

The Selangor Selection will be boosted by the inclusion of two former English Premier League players and national striker Safee Sali for their Sultan of Selangor’s Cup match against the Singapore Selection at the Shah Alam Stadium on Oct 1.

Jason McAteer and Jesper Blomqvist, of Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, are scheduled to arrive late next week before attending the final training session with the Selangor team on Friday.

Sultan of Selangor’s Cup 2011 chairman Datuk Karim Munisar said the presence of the two former EPL players and Safee “will make the team a very exciting and solid unit”.

He expects McAteer and Blomqvist to inspire the team and provide ammunition for Safee.
“We are expecting a huge turnout at the Shah Alam Stadium on Oct 1,’’ said Karim, who added that the foreign players would be sponsored by a private company.

Football Focus Asia chief executive officer Robert Teasdale, the man responsible for hiring McAteer and Blomqvist, said that both the players were fit and ready for action, having played in the Masters tournament.

“They are very good players and will make the Selangor team a formidable side,’’ he said.
This year’s Sultan of Selangor’s Cup will also mark the 10th anniversary of the coronation of Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

Tickets priced at RM10 will be sold at the Quality Hotel Shah Alam, Quality Hotel City Centre Kuala Lumpur and at the Shah Alam Stadium on match day.

All big teams set to book quarter final tickets

All the big guns – except for 32-time winner Selangor – are set to confirm their quarter-final places in the Malaysia Cup competition.

Defending champions Kelantan, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and surprise packages Perak, Felda United and T-Team are the frontrunners to make the knockout stage from their respective groups.

But it is Group A leaders Perak who are the talk of the town. They have certainly performed above expectations, especially after losing five key players to suspension.

Coach Norizan Bakar has done exceptionally well to whip the team into shape to lead Group A with 10 points. Perak, who now need just one point from their last two matches to book a berth in the last eight, will play Johor at the Larkin Stadium.

Negri Sembilan and Terengganu, with nine points each, are the best bets to qualify from Group B. All they need is to win their matches.

Negri, who lost 2-0 to PKNS FC at home last week, should bounce back and get the three points they need when they travel to the Selayang MC Stadium to face winless Sime Darby FC.

Terengganu, who are one of the best offensive teams – thanks to the likes of Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin, Abdul Manaf Mamat, Joseph Kallang Tie, Mohd Ismail Faruqi and Golden Boot winner Abdul Hadi Yahaya – should prove too hot for Premier League champions PKNS in another Group B match at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya.

Group C leaders Felda United have the easiest task of reaching the last eight. All they need is a point from their remaining two matches.

Felda, who have 10 points, can do just that against Sarawak at the State Stadium in Kuching today. Even if they lose to the Crocs, they can still go through if Kelantan beat Johor FC in another match at the JCorp Stadium in Pasir Gudang.

Felda’s last group match is against Kelantan in Kota Baru on Tuesday.

Felda’s sudden rise can be attributed to the on-loan signings of midfielders D. Saarvindran, who has been the livewire of the team, and S. Sivanesan.

Kelantan, meanwhile, are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to retain the title. Coach Datuk M. Karathu is one happy man following the return of goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (pic) from national duty.

Khairul played a key role in restricting Japan to a 2-0 win over Malaysia in the Asian Zone final round qualifying match in Fukuoka on Wednesday.

“It is good to have our number one goalkeeper back and he will be in my plans for the match against Johor FC,” said Karathu.

All eyes will also be on Selangor, who are trophyless so far this season after losing the Charity Shield to Kelantan (0-2), crashing out in the semi-finals of the FA Cup to Kelantan (2-6 on aggregate) and failing to retain the Super League crown.

Selangor have paid a heavy price since losing ace striker Mohd Safee Sali to Indonesian Super League side Pelita Jaya FC early this year.

Coach K. Devan resigned on Wednesday following the team’s poor showing in Group D, having accumulated only four points from four matches.

Assistant coach P. Maniam has been handed the tough task of getting Selangor into the knockout stage. Selangor have only a mathematical chance of doing it as they need to win both their remaning matches against Police today at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi and Kuala Lumpur in Shah Alam on Tuesday.

At the same time they must hope for either T-Team and Kuala Lumpur to lose points in their remaining fixtures.

“It may be our last chance to stay alive in the competition,” Maniam said yesterday.

T-Team lead Group D with nine points, followed by Kuala Lumpur a point behind.
Selangor are third with four points while Police have one point.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi wants Olympic team to keep focus despite setback

Khairul Fahmi Che Mat played down his heroics in preventing Malaysia from suffering a humiliating defeat in Wednesday's Asian Olympic third round Group C qualifier against Japan.
The 2-0 loss was flattering to the Malaysian team and a rout was only avoided due to a string of world-class saves by the captain.

Khairul Fahmi, instead, chose to talk about the next two games in the hope the team will rebound from the defeat at the Tosu Stadium.

"We lost concentration in the key moments and that is something we will have to work on. We all take responsibility and have to learn from our mistakes.
"We need to be able to keep our focus for the full 90 minutes and I hope we will get a result in the next game," said Khairul Fahmi after the game.

None of Malaysia's four goals in the five games played so far has been scored by a striker and Izzaq Faris Ramlan, A. Thamil Arasu and Syahrul Izwari Ibrahim again failed to find the target on Wednesday.

Khairul Fahmi, however, believes it is only a matter of time before the strikers come good.

"Japan are a really good team and it was always going to be difficult to score against them. The strikers worked as hard as anyone and if they remain confident, the goals will come," said the Kelantan player.

Olympic squad promise to improve after losing to Japan

Statistics don't lie and the numbers from Malaysia's Olympic qualifier 2-0 loss to Japan on Wednesday painted a damning picture.
As anyone who watched the game would agree, Japan dominated from start to finish and the figures will attest to that.

Japan peppered the Malaysian goal with 26 shots, half of them saved by skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, easily the national Under-22 team's best player of the night.

In contrast, Malaysia managed only two attempts, the first of which did not come until the 53rd minute with Abdul Shukur Jusoh's wayward shot before Fandi Othman had a go in the 62nd minute.
Malaysia earned their first of two corners in the 81st minute and only had 32 percent of ball possession.

Outplayed is putting it kindly but coach Ong Kim Swee, while admitting there is a huge gulf in standard between the two teams, said Malaysia can only improve on the display at the Tosu Stadium.

"Japan are at a different level from us," said Kim Swee after watching his side beaten for the first time in the qualifying campaign for the 2012 London Olympics.

"From this match, we saw how fast Japan were able to move and we were too slow at getting the ball. Japan closed us down easily in the middle and we were not able to go forward.

"We need to learn the lessons from this game to apply to our remaining five matches. The good thing is that we play our next two matches at home and we have to use home-ground advantage to get back on track."

Syria, who defeated Bahrain 3-1 in the other Group A match in Zarqa, Jordan on Wednesday, are Malaysia's next opponents on Nov 23 followed by Bahrain four days later.

Both of Japan's goals resulted from Malaysia giving the Japanese too much space and the score line could easily have reached double figures had it not been for the excellent Khairul Fahmi.

"He played very well and kept the score down for us," said Kim Swee of the goalkeeper.

"It is not just about saving shots but also his ability in organising the defence and motivating the players."

The state and club-based players will be released for the Malaysia Cup after returning home yesterday and those not involved in the Malaysia Cup will regroup in October for an Under-23 invitational tournament in Vietnam in preparation for the Sea Games the following month.

Mentri Besar confident Terengganu teams can qualify for quarter finals

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said is confident that both the state’s teams – Terengganu and T-Team – are capable of reaching the Malaysia Cup semi-finals.

While praising both teams for showing good performances, he voiced concern over the teams’ inconsistencies.

“I noticed that both teams were playing half-heartedly at times. I have already warned them to buck up but nothing seems to have changed,” he told newsmen yesterday.

Ahmad called on the coaches of both teams to crack the whip on their players, especially in training.

“The players must always be focused on the task at hand if they want to improve the standard of their game,” he said.

“As a fan, I wouldn’t mind them losing if luck is not on their side and as long as they fight until the very end.”

Ahmad also called on the coaches to crack down on those who perform below-par.

He said that some coaches even had the audacity to smile when their players are playing badly.

“These coaches are lucky that the management of teams in Malaysia give them multiple chances despite their teams playing poorly,” he said.

“If they were coaching overseas, they would have surely been sacked.”

Tomorrow, T-Team will be at home against Kuala Lumpur in their Group D match while Terengganu will face PKNS away in Group B.

Malaysia look to recover after losing to Japan

The show will have to go on for Ong Kim Swee and his boys as they bid to bounce back from the dismal showing against the “Young Samurai” in the opening game of the Asian Zone final round Group C qualifying match for the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday.

Skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat admitted that they had no choice but “to pick up the pieces after the 2-0 defeat by Japan at the Tosu Stadium”.

“We have to look forward ... and learn from the past,” said Khairul before the squad checked out from the team hotel early yesterday morning.

Japan made short work of the Malaysians but Khairul was outstanding between the posts. He was the diference between Malaysia restricting the Japanese to just two goals and getting a real hammering in Fukuoka.

“It was tough playing the top team in Asia but it was a good experience for all of us,” said Khairul, who is looking forward to putting behind the debacle as they prepare to face Syria next at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Nov 23.

“Syria won their opening game also and they are the team we need to beat to stay in contention in the competition,” said Khairul.

Syria defeated Bahrain 3-0 in another Group C match on Wednesday.

Asia has 3.5 slots for the 2012 London Olympics. The three group winners will win automatic slots. The three runners-up will compete in a playoff, with the winner playing an African representative for the last slot to the London Games.

Head coach Kim Swee said the players can make amends for the opening defeat by trying to get maximum points from the two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27).

“We had sent our man to watch the Syria-Bahrain game and we hope to redeem ourselves against these teams,” said Kim Swee, who hopes that fans and critics will give them a second chance.

“Let’s be realistic ... we lost to a better team. I hope the fans understand that Japan are the best team in Asia and their players have been playing in high intensity matches in the J-League, unlike our boys.

“That is why you can see them playing with so much confidence while we find it hard to cope with their fast brand of football.”

Terengganu confident of beating PKNS and Negeri Sembilan

Terengganu are confident they can get the all-important point from the two remaining outings – against PKNS and Negri Sembilan – to confirm their Malaysia Cup quarter-final tickets.

Terengganu are joint leaders in Group B with Negri Sembilan on nine points, followed by Selangor PKNS on six points and the winless Sime Darby.

But that doesn’t mean coach Irfan Bakti is ready to settle for a draw when his Turtles take on PKNS at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya tomorrow.

“PKNS may be just a club side but we must not underestimate them. They are, after all, the Premier League champions and they also stunned Negri 2-0 last Saturday,” Irfan said in a telephone interview from Kuala Terengganu yesterday.

“So, we cannot take them lightly or we will suffer the same fate as Negri Sembilan.”

Irfan is also aware that his side only narrowly managed to overcome PKNS 3-2 in the first round at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Sept 10.

That, and his side’s laboured 1-0 win over Sime Darby last Saturday, is enough for him to warn his men not to be too complacent against PKNS.

“The fact is we have enough experience and talent in the team to get the job done.
“I am confident we can confirm our place in the knockout stage on Saturday (against PKNS),” he said.

And Irfan will be counting on the likes of Hadi Yahya, Joseph Kallang, Manaf Mamat, Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin and Reeshafiq Alwi to help make their quarter-final dream a reality when the Malaysia Cup campaign resumes tomorrow after the week-long break.

As for PKNS, they must beat Terengganu if they want to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
So, the stage is set for an intriguing clash.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Malaysian coach admits Japan were too good

Malaysia are miles behind Asian powerhouse Japan.

The statistic report handed to the media showed that Japan had 22 shots at goal compared to Malaysia’s 2.

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee admitted that Malaysia were no match for Japan.
The former international said it was no secret that they simply lost to a better team and it would be difficult for Malaysia to cope with teams of higher standards in international competitions.

“Japan are of a different level and they gave us a lesson in football today,” conceded Kim Swee at the post-match conference after Japan defeated Malaysia 2-0 at the Tosu Stadium here last night.

Kim Swee offered no excuses and said that even though he had placed utmost emphasis on defensive tactics in training – his boys could not cope with the fleet-footed opponents.

“A good team will make it difficult no matter how we play and they capitalised on the mistakes in defence. Japan played at a different level and showed us how to do it right.

They closed us down in the middle and when we had possession, our boys were slow to go forward,” said a disappointed Kim Swee.

However, the only bright spark in the team was skipper cum goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who was oustanding between the posts, stopping more than a dozen attempts at goal.

If not for Khairul’s heroics, Malaysia could have received a hiding.

“There is no question about his (Khairul) performance today.

“He was not only commanding in goal but also organised the backline,” said Kim Swee.

The backline comprising Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Mohd Zubir Azmi and Mahalli Jasuli were in shambles.

Nippy Keigo Higashi and Hiroshi Kiyotake proved to be a handful for the Malaysian defence with their strong running and passing.

The midfield did not live up to expectations while forwards A. Thamil Arasu and Izzaq Faris Ramlan had barely any support.

Kim Swee said it was not the end of the world for his team and hoped that they bounce back in their next two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27),

Selangor coach Devan resigns due to team's poor form

The team’s poor performance and the fans’ demand for his resignation were the two reasons for K. Devan ending his tenure as Selangor coach on Tuesday.

He pinpointed the 5-1 FA Cup semi-final first leg loss to Kelantan on May 13 as the start of Selangor’s downfall as “it robbed the team of confidence, motivation, fighting spirit and morale”.

The departure of striker Safee Sali to Indonesian side Pelita Jaya and their failure to replace the talismanic striker with an equally prolific goal-getter was among the problem that sent the team on a downward spiral.

“We had a combination of problems with injuries and players struggling for form and it resulted in poor performance this season,” said Devan, who was named coach of the year in 2006 and 2009.

“I failed to motivate the players after the heavy defeat by Kelantan and I’m accountable for this failure.”

The 50-year-old coach also said that he was “baffled and hurt” with the fans’ demands for his sacking.

Banners seeking his axing could be seen at the Shah Alam Stadium when the Red Giants fell 2-1 to T-Team on Saturday.

“I’m disappointed as people have failed to recognise my contribution in the first two years as a coach and only saw my shortcomings in my third year,” said a frustrated Devan.

“I was not happy when my credibility as a coach was questioned based on one season. I don’t understand how I could turn into to a bad coach in a short time.”

Devan, who replaced Dollah Salleh as coach before the start of the 2009 season, is Selangor’s most successful coach –winning six titles in two years.

The Seremban-based coach won the Super League (2009, 2010), Selangor Cup (2009), FA Cup (2009) and the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup (2009, 2010) before Selangor hit poor form this season.

Devan, who began his coaching career in 2004 with Negri Sembilan, wishes Selangor and his former players all the best.

“I’m sad to leave but this is the best decision for me and for Selangor as we’ll both have enough time to prepare for next season,” said Devan.

“I miss the players and I want to thank them and the Selangor management for helping me for the past two years.

“I am free agent now. I will take a short break from football and search look for a team with the right target and budget in the Super League next season.”

Devan’s right hand man – P. Maniam – has taken over as coach of Selangor and he has been tasked with winning their two remaining Malaysia Cup matches against Police and Kuala Lumpur.

The Red Giants are staring at an early Malaysia Cup exit after just one win and a draw from four outings. Their latest setback – a 2-1 defeat by T-Team last week – sees them occupying third spot in Group D with four points. T-Team lead the group with nine points, followed by Kuala Lumpur with eight. Police prop up the table with just a point.