Negeri Sembilan confident they can win Malaysia Cup
Negeri Sembilan faced some difficult moments this season in terms of injuries, controversies and adversities. But they withstood every test bravely to reach their third successive Malaysia Cup final.
Former national Under-21 coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, who took over from Wan Jamak Wan Hassan, in April, had the near impossible task of toughening up a bunch of unmotivated players but despite the odds, the 59-year-old managed to turn them into a winning side.
Azraai first helped the team avoid relegation as they moved up four rungs from 12th position in the Super League.
It was tough then as Azraai had to dig deep to even name 18 fit players for Super League matches as many were injured. In some games, he had to resort to using Negri’s President Cup players in his line-up.
The break before the Malaysia Cup, however, helped in Negri’s recovery as the injured key players soon returned to full fitness and at the same time, Azraai used the opportunity to make tactical changes.
Negri’s resurrection began at the start of the Malaysia Cup, when they edged Terengganu, PKNS and Sime Darby to top Group B to advance to the quarter-finals.
Attacking midfielder Shahurain Abu Samah and veteran Hairuddin Omar have been instrumental and with 13 goals between them in the Malaysia Cup, they will be the ones to watch in the final.
Shahurain and Hairuddin have personal ambitions in today’s final — both want to score for the third successive time in a Malaysia Cup final.
For the record, they scored three goals in Negri’s 3-1 win over Kelantan in the 2009 final.
And in last year’s final, both players scored again but this time Hairuddin did it for Kelantan to help the east coast side edge Negri 2-1.
Negri, who are the underdogs, are expected to take a cautious approach against a formidable Terengganu’s strike force.
However, contrary to popular belief, Terengganu are not unbeatable, and it is unwise for anyone to write off Negri before a single ball has been kicked.
Sure, this is the biggest test of the season by far, but don’t think for a second that Negri will be lacking in readiness and in belief.
This is normally the part where I’d insert a prediction, but there won’t be one. Instead, I’ll close with five simple words, and you can make of it what you will: Champions aren’t crowned on paper.
Goalkeeper: Farizal Marlias Defenders: Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Aidil Zafuan Abd Radzak, Irwan Fadzli Idrus, Mohd Alif Samsudin Midfielders: S. Kunanlan, Shukur Adan, Idris Karim, Shahurain Abu Samah Strikers: Hairuddin Omar, Mohd Firdaus Azizul Coach: Azraai Khor Abdullah Manager: Abdul Halim Abd Latif
Team’s leading scorers
11 (goals): Hairuddin Omar
10: Shahurain Abu Samah
8: Firdaus Azizul
NEGRI SEMBILAN (Group B)
Beat PKNS 2-1 (away)
Beat Sime Darby 5-0 (home)
Beat Terengganu 1-0 (home)
Lost to PKNS 0-2 (home)
Beat Sime Darby 2-1 (away)
Drew Terengganu 0-0 (away)
QF 1st leg: Lost to Felda United 0-1 (away)
QF 2nd leg: Beat Felda United 3-0, aet (home)
SF 1st leg: Beat T-Team 4-2 (away)
SF 2nd leg: Beat T-Team 2-1 (home)
Champions (1948, 2009),
Runners-up: (2000, 2006, 2010)
PAST 10 MEETINGS
2011 Malaysia Cup: Terengganu 0 Negri 0
2011 Malaysia Cup: Negri 1 Terengganu 0
2011 Super League: Terengganu 3 Negri 0
2011 Super League: Negri 1 Terengganu 1
2010 Super League: Terengganu 1 Negri 1
2010 Super League: Negri 2 Terengganu 1
2009 Malaysia Cup: Terengganu 1 Negri 3
2009 Malaysia Cup: Negri 1 Terengganu 0
2009 Malaysia Cup: Negri 2 Terengganu 0
2009 Malaysia Cup: Terengganu 0 Negri 1