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.