Sunday, 31 July 2011

FAM's apology accepted by Chelsea

Chelsea has accepted an apology from the Football As-sociation of Malaysia (FAM) over anti-Semitic abuse that targeted Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun during a pre-season match.

The London club had lodged an official complaint after Benayoun was barracked during a game in Kuala Lumpur on July 21, the first leg of Chelsea’s Asian tour.

Chelsea initially played down the incident but went ahead with its complaint after reviewing the game. The club said it is now happy to move on.

“We appreciate the prompt attention the FAM has given. The club and Yossi accept the apology and the matter is now closed,” it said.

FAM on Friday released a qualified apology to Chelsea and the player for conduct it said came from a small disruptive section of fans.

“The FA of Malaysia would like to strongly register that we do not condone any form of racism in football. If such an incident did happen, we would like to apologise to the player concerned and also to Chelsea FC,” it said.

The midfielder was booed and jeered whenever he touched the ball during the 1-0 win against a Malaysia XI.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

FAM to investigate fake tickets claim

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has not ruled out the possibility of fake tickets sold during the 2014 Asian Zone World Cup qualifying match between Malaysia and Singapore Thursday night.

The FAM based its assumption after fans who bought tickets were forced to stand and watch the match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil last night.

FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad in denying claims that the FAM had printed extra tickets to make a profit said an investigation would be carried out.

"FAM only issued 87,000 tickets in accordance with the capacity of the National Stadium which can accommodate 100,000. Since we control the tickets according to the capacity, a situation whereby fans had to stand and watch the match should not happen," he said today.

Meanwhile, Malaysian fan Mohd Zahir Samsuddin from Bangi said he was disappointed because he had to watch the entire match from a standing position and worst still, could not get a clear view of the proceedings on the field.

 "To buy a ticket was not easy because I had to wait in a long queue but despite going through such hardship, I could not have the satisfaction of watching the match in comfort," he said.

Siti Roziah Yusof from Klang said if claims that fake tickets were sold was true, those responsible for selling such tickets must be punished severely.

"I hope the FAM will take firm action against those who sold fake tickets to make a quick buck," she said.

Malaysia and Singapore played to a 1-1 draw last night but Singapore advanced to the third round on a 6-4 aggregate.

Malaysia regrets over Benayoun abuse

THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) has expressed regret over the alleged racial abuse of Chelsea's Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun during the club's recent visit to Kuala Lumpur.
In response to Chelsea's official complaint on Thursday regarding the July 21 incident at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil against a Malaysian Selection, FAM said in a statement that only a small section of spectators in the 85,000 crowd was involved.

"The FA of Malaysia has received a complaint from English Premier League side Chelsea FC over alleged racist abuse targeted at Israeli midfielder, Yossi Benayoun, during a friendly match with the Malaysian XI in Kuala Lumpur on July 21.

"From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match and this surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football loving country.
"The FA of Malaysia would like to strongly register that we do not condone any form of racism in football. If such an incident did happen, we would like to apologise to the player concerned, and also to Chelsea FC," read the statement.

Israel captain Benayoun was the first athlete from his country to come to Malaysia since the Israeli cricket team competed at the 1997 ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.

Safee Sali urges fans to keep faith in national team

Malaysian striker Safee Sali has urged fans to have faith in the national team which he believes can only get better in time.
The Pelita Jaya striker was gutted after Malaysia bowed out of the World Cup qualifiers following a 6-4 aggregate defeat to Singapore on Thursday.

It should have been a memorable occasion for Safee, who was given the honour of leading the team out for the first time and then scored the goal which revived Malaysia's chances.

A defensive lapse again hurt Malaysia as the second leg ended 1-1 but Safee, the oldest player in the squad, sees a bright future for the team.
"We failed. We tried as hard as we could until our last fighting breath. The chance was right there in front of our eyes but we were not able to grasp it.

"Still, we have to think about the future and in this team I see a bright one ahead. I'm 27, and as the most senior player in the team, my time is limited.

"But these boys are young and if they work hard, they will get better," said Safee, who scored three times against Singapore over the two legs but to no avail.

Goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who has already won nine caps at 22, is among those who have the makings of a national star in due time.

"Everyone played well, it was not just me," said Fahmi, who was instrumental in keeping Malaysia's hopes alive with a string of fine saves in the second leg.

"Maybe it was not meant to be, we played well but Singapore maybe deserved to go through."

Singapore defend use of foreign-born players

Singapore's press yesterday heaped praise on the city-state's foreign-born footballers following their 6-4 aggregate win over Malaysia in the Asian World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
"Born in China, 100% S'porean" said local tabloid the New Paper, with the words juxtaposed to a photograph of a euphoric Shi Jiayi, the China-born midfielder who scored the equalising goal in Thursday's 1-1 draw.

The picture's background featured banners unfurled by Malaysian fans with the messages "100% Malaysians, NO FOREIGNERS" and "100% PURE MALAYSIAN," highlighting pre-match sneers of Singapore's over-reliance on its naturalised players.

Singapore drew 1-1 with Malaysia on Thursday in the second leg of their round two Asian World Cup qualifiers.
This ensured the city-state's progression after a 5-3 win in the first leg in Singapore.

But the euphoria was tempered by criticism from many Singaporeans that all six goals scored over the two legs came from naturalised players Aleksandar Duric and Fahrudin Mustafic who were born in Yugoslavia, as well as China-born Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li.

Singapore's coach, Raddy Avramovich is Serbian.

The criticism reflects a general sentiment against the influx of foreign workers into the wealthy island-state, which Singaporeans say has resulted in overcrowding and loss of jobs for locals.

In a commentary entitled "Pride of Singapore, no doubt about it", the New Paper's sports editor said the foreign-born football players displayed their loyalty and affection for the city-state on and off the pitch.

"Enough of this talk," S. Murali wrote, apparently referring to criticism over foreign-born players.

"Singapore won the match. Though he was born in China, Shi Jiayi is 100 percent Singaporean," he said.

In the Straits Times, a photograph of the Singapore team celebrating their win dominated the front page, with the picture's focus on naturalised player Daniel Bennet, formerly a Briton, raising his arms in triumph.

The headline next to the photo declared "Lions Tame Tigers" in reference to the teams' respective mascots.

Still hope for Malaysian football despite failure

Malaysia's early exit from the World Cup qualifiers should not derail the national team from their course towards reclaiming their status among Asia's elite.
Failure to beat Singapore for the ninth game in a row dating back to 2004 may rankle but national coach K. Rajagobal has the building blocks in place for a successful defence of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup title next year on home ground and qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup.

Yet, Rajagobal faces a challenging task to overcome glaring weaknesses in the young back-line of the national team and develop a natural playmaker capable of turning games around.

The absence of centre-back Aidil Zafuan Radzak from the two-legged 6-4 aggregate defeat to Singapore, bar a brief 22-minute appearance in Thursday's second leg, was a crucial factor in Malaysia conceding six goals in the second round tie.
While Fadhli Shas, 20, and Muslim Ahmad, 22, did well in Malaysia's surprise AFF Cup triumph, they were exposed time and again when put under pressure by Singapore's Aleksandar Duric, Qiu Li and Shi Jiayi.

Right-back Mahalli Jasuli is another who needlessly loses possession, which nearly cost Malaysia dear in the first round away leg against Taiwan.

The ease with which Duric set up Jiayi for the equaliser which cancelled Safee Sali's opener in the 1-1 second leg draw highlighted the need for at least one experienced player in defence.

Which is why Norhafiz Zamani Misbah's recovery from a long-term cruciate ligament injury will be greatly welcomed by Rajagobal following the centre-back's majestic display against Chelsea's Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba in a recently friendly match.

Safiq Rahim's suspension also brought to light the lack of a midfielder capable of pulling strings in the centre.

Although the diminutive Ismail Faruqi Ashari tried as hard as he could to fill the breach, the step-up from Super League to international level proved daunting for the 24-year-old Terengganu midfielder.

"You cannot judge a player after just one match. It takes a long time to integrate into the team and adapt to international football.

"Ismail showed some good things especially in the second half when pushing forward. But as you know, the situation did not warrant me to call up replacements," said Rajagobal.

And the question of who is to partner Safee when Norshahrul Idlan Talaha is not available is clearly no nearer to being answered.

Abdul Hadi Yahya may be the Super League top scorer but his in-the-box style of play is clearly not suited to Rajagobal's expansive link-up play along the flanks and outside the box.

Ahmad Fakri Saarani would have been a natural choice but the Negri Sembilan forward has been so out of sorts in an injury-blighted season that he lost his head when sent off in stoppage time.

There is also an argument that had Khairul Fahmi Che Mat started in goal in the first leg instead of Sharbinee Allawee Ramli, Malaysia would have had a better chance of progressing to the third round of the Asian qualifiers.

Fahmi gave a heroic display in frustrating the Singapore forwards, yet Rajagobal defended his selection.

"It's difficult to say (whether it would have made a difference). Fahmi did well when given his opportunity and I did not field him in the first game for reasons you know why (injury).

"Both goalkeepers did well. You can't blame the goalkeepers for the goals because the team must take the blame collectively, every department."

While the failure to advance to the next round could be construed as a missed opportunity, it does allow Rajagobal to take stock of his team for the next assignment, the AFF Cup.

"I always have belief in the team, even when we were 5-3 down," added Rajagobal. "We had our chances and you could see it was a missed opportunity.

"But I have said from day one that this team are being prepared for the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers. We have to think ahead and the future is good for this team."

FAM apologise to Chelsea

The Football Association of Malaysia(FAM) Friday apologised to Chelsea's Israeli player Yossi Benayoun and his club for any anti-Semitic abuse suffered by the midfielder in the country last week.

"From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match and this surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football loving country," it said in a statement.

"The FA of Malaysia would like to strongly register that we do not condone any form of racism in football. If such an incident did happen, we would like to apologise to the player concerned, and also to Chelsea FC," it added.

The qualified apology comes after the FA of Malaysia received a complaint from Chelsea over alleged racist abuse targeted at Benayoun during a friendly match with the Malaysian XI in Kuala Lumpur on July 21.

The midfielder was booed and jeered whenever he touched the ball in the 1-0 win against Malaysia in the capital of the Muslim-majority country.

Benayoun was the first Israeli to play in Malaysia, which strongly supports the Palestinians and does not recognise Israel, maintaining no diplomatic ties with the country. Some 60 percent of Malaysia's population is Muslim.

A statement on Chelsea's website read: "Notwithstanding most fans behaving appropriately on the night, we believe Yossi was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by a number of supporters at the game.

"Such behaviour is offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football.

"The club did not make representations at the time as it was initially unclear as to the nature of the abuse Yossi received, as several players from both teams experienced similar treatment, sometimes louder and longer.

"However, having taken time to consider the issue fully, it has become apparent that a formal complaint was necessary."

Malaysia get complain letter from Chelsea over Benayoun abuse

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has received a letter from English Premier League side Chelsea complaining about the anti-Semitic abuse of Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun during their friendly last week.

FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad confirmed receiving the letter.

“Yes, they faxed us a letter (on Wednesday) and we will look into their complaint,” Azzuddin said yesterday.

“We have to first establish who the fans were jeering at. It is not easy to address this issue when the match was played in front of a sell-out crowd.”

During last Thursday’s match against the Malaysian XI, Benayoun was jeered and booed as he became the first Israeli in recent memory to play in the country.

Chelsea won the match, played at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, 1-0.

“Notwithstanding most fans behaving appropriately on the night, we believe Yossi was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by a num­ber of supporters at the game,” Chelsea said.

“Such behaviour is offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football.”

The Premier League club, currently on a tour in Hong Kong, did not complain to the FAM at the time.

“It was initially unclear as to the nature of the abuse Yossi received, as several players from both teams experienced similar treatment, sometimes louder and longer,” Chelsea said.

“However, having taken time to consider the issue fully, it has become apparent that a formal complaint was necessary.”

Chelsea is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is also Jewish.

Malaysian fans still behind team despite failure

THE curtain has come down on Malaysia’s bid to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
But no one can forget the electrifying atmosphere created by the sellout 90,000 crowd at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil as Malaysia drew 1-1 with Singapore in the return leg of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.

Singapore advanced to the third round 6-4 on aggregate but the Malaysian fans were not disheartened and did not leave their seats until after the final whistle.

Had it been a few years earlier, not only would it have been difficult for Malaysia to fill the stadium but most would have deserted the team well before the final whistle.

The mindset of many football fans has changed since national coach Datuk K. Rajagopal led the national Under-23 boys to the 2009 SEA Games gold medal in Laos after a lapse of 20 years.

Yes, the good times are back for Malaysian football. Many believe that the 90,000 turnout on Thursday was the best ever in Malaysian football history.

The fans are beginning to have faith in the Harimau Malaya squad and the show of support was overwhelming considering that this was just a “qualifying round” match.

The nation was at a standstill as the two nations revived their age-old footballing rivalry. Even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak saw it fit to personally call up Rajagopal to convey his message of encouragement to the players.

It was good to see the whole nation standing united and rallying behind the team.

For the FA of Malaysia (FAM), it’s back to the drawing board after failing for the 11th consecutive time to get past the second round since they began competing in the World Cup qualifying rounds in 1974.

Apart from figuring out how to break the qualifying jinx the next time around, there are some grave concerns which FAM had better look into as far as fan behaviour, security and crowd control are concerned.

It’s well and good to have the fans turning up in full force and becoming the “12th man”.

But when they start behaving like, to borrow a phrase used by Professor McGonaggal from the Harry Porter movie, blithering idiots, then something needs to be done urgently.

It is simply annoying to have the game disrupted by “laser ray” lights being shone onto the playing field and at opposing goalkeepers.

This is not the first time it has happened. The FAM must act fast to put a stop to such practices and nab the culprits before their idiotic behaviour lands Malaysia in trouble with the world governing body, FIFA.

It’s best that FAM tighten up their security measures before FIFA take drastic action, including forcing Malaysia to play their matches in empty stadiums or at neutral venues.

It’s also sad to see fans showing disrespect when the national anthems of the participating countries are played at the stadium.
Let us all rise, stand at attention, and show that we are civilised people who respect the anthems of not only our country, but that of our rivals as well.

Let’s display a sense of sportsmanship, please.

Our fans must also learn to differentiate between sports and politics. Last week, a section of the crowd had jeered Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun when his Chelsea team played against the Malaysian Selection in a friendly at the same venue.

This has led to Chelsea lodging a formal complaint with the FAM, who in turn have apologised for the fans’ unsporting behaviour.

As for security matters, something needs to be done to prevent ticket-less fans from gaining entry into the stadium.

On Thursday, hundreds of fans with valid tickets had to sit on the aisles as their seats had been “taken up”.

This could prove disastrous because in case of an emergency, there would be no clear passage for fans to leave the stadium and this could even result in a stampede of the Hillsborough or Heysel proportion.

FAM should also look into hiring more wardens for matches of such magnitude.

Their presence will be a big help in ensuring the smooth flow of fans in and out of the stadium.

Seven players to return to Olympic squad

The Malaysian Under-23 team in Slovakia will be bolstered by the return of seven key players from the national team, who were ousted by Singapore in the second round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.

The seven – goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat; defenders Mahalli Jasuli, Muslim Ahmad and Fadhli Shas; midfielder K. Gurusamy; and strikers Ahmad Fakri Saarani and Izzaq Faris Ramlan – are expected to join up with their national Under-23 counterparts in Slovakia on Wednesday.

The first batch of 23 players left for Slovakia on July 23 for a training-cum-playing tour and are scheduled to play six matches against Slovakian Division One clubs and international friendlies against a European Olympic side.

With these seven players now joining the training camp, seven from the initial squad of 23 are expected to return home.

National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee hopes to keep the players together for as long as possible in Slovakia.

“We will have 30 players when the seven players join up with us.

“I want to keep the players here for as long as possible so that they will be exposed to a high level of football,” said Kim Swee in a telephone interview from Vion, Slovakia, yesterday.

“Here, they get quality training and competitive matches. We are also continuously looking for friendly matches with club sides to give the players more playing time.”

The Under-23 team began their Slovakia tour on a positive note, beating Moldova 1-0 on Tuesday with a goal by Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria in the 47th minute.

“I was impressed with the players’ display, especially in the second half.

“Harimau Muda B centreback Muhammad Syazwan Tajuddin has clicked well with the rest of the backline,” said Kim Swee.

“The Harimau Muda A boys were consistent with their display since beating Lebanon on June 23.

“I hope the players can maintain and improve themselves in our next matches.”

The Under-23 squad’s third stint in Slovakia will double up as a tune-up for the final round of the Asian Zone Olympic qualifiers.

The Under-23 squad have been drawn in Group C with Japan, Bahrain and Syria in the final round of the 2012 Olympic qualifiers.

Malaysia will start their campaign against Japan on Sept 21 before two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27).

Malaysian fans proud of the team

Malaysia may have lost to Singapore in their bid to make it to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers but the big winners of the night were the fans.

A sea of yellow and blue flooded the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil -- an atmosphere rarely seen before in recent times.

In the past, fans would have jeered the Tigers after a loss but not yesterday. Instead, they stood by until the final whistle was blown.

Malaysia drew 1-1 with Singapore in the second round of the return leg pre-World Cup qualifier yesterday. Singapore advanced with a 6-4 aggregate.

Safee Sali scored for Malaysia in the 58th minute, sending fans into ecstasy. The visitors equalised through Shi Jiayi in the 72nd minute.

The defeat, however, did not bruise the spirits of the fans, who had only praises for the Tigers.
Insurance agent Azrul Azam Abdul Abas, 30, said this was his third time watching Malaysia play live.

"We were running out of creative options but credit must be given to the team, especially Safee Sali. He and S. Kunalan were the live wire of the team," he said.

"Usually, fans boo our players after a loss but it was good seeing them respecting the players and appreciating the effort. The people are behind the team."

Faizul Zainuddin, 25, a clerk from KL, said fans showed they were behind the team throughout the night.

"I was confident Malaysia would win but we were banking too much on our counter-attack and lacked creativity," he said.

"We should put this loss behind us and concentrate on the SEA Games."

Thomas Loke, 49, from Cheras, said Malaysians of all backgrounds came together in support of the team and despite the defeat, it was still a win for Malaysian football.

"I think Malaysian fans will be behind this team for a long time. They have made us proud once again."

Student Sharil Nazri, 29, said this was the highest achievement for the country for now.

"Of course, it would have been better if we had won.The players gave Singapore a fight and deserve to be applauded."

Sharil, however, lamented many fans were upset with the Singaporean team, who they felt were play-acting during the match.

The stadium was packed to the brim with more than 85,000 fans, although some did not have seats and were forced to stand throughout the match while others made their way to the media boxes.

Many were at the stadium as early as 2pm as they did not want to get caught in traffic.

After Malaysia lost 5 - 3 to Singapore during the first leg of the World Cup qualifiers last Saturday, Nazrul Azri Othman from Temerloh, Pahang decided to gather all his family members and friends to watch the second leg of the match in Bukit Jalil last night to show their support and love for the game.

It took him a few days but in the end, he managed to put together a rag-tag convoy of 10 cars and 20 motorcycles.

"We spoke about coming here even before the first leg but after Saturday's match, we decided our team needs us," said Nazrul, who became a Harimau Muda fan after Malaysia won the Suzuki Cup in December last year.

"We are disappointed Malaysia will not go on to the next stage but our Tigers have displayed good team spirit during the second half."

Nazrul's friend, Mohd Shamie Afiq, 27, said: "We left Temerloh about noon and reached here at 3pm so as not to get caught in the traffic jam. We got the tickets from a friend who stays in KL who bought them on the first day of sale."

The Temerloh group, all proudly attired in yellow-and-black tiger stripe jerseys, journeyed back home after the match ended.

"We will be back to support our Tigers whenever there is a big match. That we promise." said Nazrul.

It was not just the locals who enjoyed the game last night.

Singaporean Ahmad Md Noor, 57, praised the Malayan Tigers and credited the local boys for their showmanship.

"It was a tough game and Malaysia deserve full credit but I think they got their tactics wrong.

Malaysia played well and was attacking when they made a few changes," he said.

"We (Lion fans) were scared when Malaysia scored. It came at a time when they had momentum.

"With the crowd cheering I thought Malaysia would score again. After all, they just needed a 2-0 score to win the second round."

Ahmad, however, lamented security at the National Stadium must be improved as he claimed bottles were thrown at them.

Another Singapore fan Hardeep Singh, 44, also praised both teams.

"My prediction that our national team had the advantage to win this match came true," he said.
Joris Van Dekerkhof, 44, from the Netherlands is an ardent football fan and was rooting for the Malayan Tigers.

With his wife and two children, he was seen buying the national team's jersey.

"We were fascinated when we saw the first leg on television last Saturday and decided to come today.

"I support Malaysia all the way."

Malaysia need more quality players

Malaysia's World Cup dream has been shattered yet another time.

While Asians giants Japan and South Korea have consistently qualified for the world stage, Malaysia are in the same “team rebuilding” mode for ages now.

The national team have failed in their bid to get past the second round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers for 37 years now, or to be exact after 11 attempts since 1974.

There have been positive signs of progress when the national team were crowned champions of the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships last year.

National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal’s target for the future is to qualify on merit for the 2015 Asian Cup.

“We have a young national team compared to the experienced Singapore side. It will take time and there are bound to be failures and setbacks along the way.

“It is a learning process for the players before they are ready for the Asian Cup – four years from now,” Rajagopal said at the post-match conference.

The former international said he was unlikely to make drastic changes to the team.

“I believe in these boys. They have worked hard and I have confidence in them to deliver when the time comes. I have to be fair to them and I will not judge them based on this one match alone.”

Although the fans did not show their disappointment, it is evident that Malaysia lacked depth in reserves.

This was clear for everyone to see when Rajagopal had to tinker with his team following the absence of centreback Mohd Aidil Zafuan (ankle injury), midfielder Safiq Rahim (suspension) and striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (hamstring injury).

It was also shocking to see the defence crumbling with ease. Had it not been for goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat’s heroics, Malaysia would have lost to Singapore in the second round, return-leg of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifying match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Thursday.

In the end, Malaysia drew 1-1 with Singapore, who go through to the third round with a 6-4 aggregate win.

The porous defence was also the main talking point when they fell 3-5 in the first-leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Saturday.

This is surprising considering the fact that centrebacks Mohd Muslim Ahmad and Mohd Fadhli Shas, leftback Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar and rightback Mahalli Jasuli had led Malaysia to victory in the Suzuki Cup last year.

Maybe the heavy international assignment took its toll on Mohd Muslim, Mohd Fadhli and Mahalli, who were unable to reproduce the same kind of energy level shown in the Suzuki Cup.
The trio have had to play for the pre-Olympic squad as well.

They have hardly had any rest, playing eight international matches in the Asian Zone qualifying round for the World Cup and Olympics from June 19-July 28.
This included the two high-profile friendlies against English Premier League sides Arsenal (July 13) and Liverpool (July 16).

Rajagopal also needs to shore up the midfield department. With influential skipper Safiq out through suspension, there was no player able to command the engine room.

Safiq’s replacement, Ismail Faruqi lacked experience while Amar Rohidan failed to stop Singapore’s Mustafic Fahrudin and Shahril Ishak from taking charge in the centre.

The Malaysian flankers did well in patches, with S. Kunalan and Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal providing some spark. Perhaps they could learn a trick or two from Singapore’s naturalised twin terrors Qiu Li and Shi Jiayi.

Striker Mohd Safee Sali salvaged some pride for Malaysia with a clinical finish inside the box. But what happened to this year’s Golden Boot winner Abdul Hadi Yahaya, Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Baddrol Bakhtiar and Izzaq Faris Ramlan?

The absence of Norshahrul was sorely felt as Safee did not have a good partner upfront to complement his game.

The national team’s assignment for this year has ended.

Rajagopal has to get cracking to strengthen the side before the Suzuki Cup next year and he had better find some more quality players.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Former coaches feel Malaysia not ready for highest levels

The loss to Singapore may be a hard pill to swallow for Malaysia but in reality, the young tigers are still not ready to compete at the highest level, says former national football coach.

After having won the Laos SEA Games gold medal in 2009 and the AFF Suzuki Cup last year, Malaysia who were regarded as the best team in South East Asia, failed to beat Singapore last night and missed the opportunity to advance to the third round of the 2014 Asian Zone World Cup Qualifier.

Malaysia who lost 3-5 in the first leg of the second round to Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore last Saturday, could only manage a 1-1 in the return leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil last night and lost out on a 4-6 aggregate.

Former National coach B. Sathianathan said based on the performances of the team this month, it can be concluded that we are still not ready to compete against the likes of Asian football powerhouses like South Korea, Japan or middle east countries.

In the four matches that Malaysia lost this month, 18 goals were conceded against eight goals scored, underlining a chink in the Armour of Datuk K. Rajagobal's trusted guards.

Malaysia lost 2-3 to Taiwan in the second leg of the first round 2014 Asian Zone World Cup Qualifier and again lost 0-4 to English Premier League club Arsenal and 3-6 to Liverpool before the 3-5 loss to Singapore last Saturday.

"Singapore were more composed, controlled play and better organised. They also created more chances," he told Bernama.

In contrast, the Malaysian players were did not display their true capabilities, probably because they were under pressure and were tense throughout the match, except for a few players, he said.

According to Sathianathan, only the brilliance of goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat prevented Singapore from scoring more goals last night.

Meanwhile, Datuk Abdul Ghani Minhat or better known as 'Raja Bola' to the Malaysian football fraternity when contacted said, the players were in a state of panic and not focused.

"Maybe there were too obsessed with the two goal deficit and that probably added on to the pressure because despite the strong support from the fans, nothing went according to their game plan," he said.

Ghani added that the loss had exposed a number of weaknesses that need to be rectified while their mental and physical strength need to be restored so that they can continue the task ahead in the future.

Malaysia's next assignment will be the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia come November.

Singapore ends Malaysia's World Cup hopes

Malaysia's hopes of making it to the 2014 World Cup final was dealt a fatal blow when  Singapore won their second round Asian Zone World Cup Qualifier 6-4 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil Thursday night.

Singapore who beat Malaysia 5-3 in their second round, first leg match at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore on Saturday, came from behind to cancel out a Mohd Safee Sali goal in the 57th minute that had momentarily revived Malaysia's hopes.

Malaysia, leading 1-0 and eager to score a second goal that would have earned them a ticket to the next stage, left gapping holes in the defence and that lapse was exploited by Shi Jiayi in the 72nd minute to give the all important equaliser.

The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the more than 90,000 fans who had flocked to the stadium, hoping to boost the confidence of the players, to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg.
 Unlike the first leg which saw eight goals scored, the second leg today saw both teams playing more cautiously and relying on counter attacks.

Though the entire nation was solidly behind Datuk K. Rajagobal's boys, there was little they could do against a Singapore side that paraded a number of foreign players who have since become 'Singaporeans'.
Riding on the nationalistic fervour, Malaysia went on the offensive right from the start but time and again came up against a stout Singaporean wall marshaled by seasoned campaigner Daniel Bennet.

Even the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and a number of cabinet ministers at the stadium, especially Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, failed to lift the gloom.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who watched the match live on a large screen in Kedah, gave the thumbs up to the Malaysian players despite bowing out of the 2014 World Cup Qualifier to Singapore.
"The players gave a spirited display and I am proud of their determination and fighting spirit," said Najib who was on a one day official visit to Kedah.

National coach Datuk K. Rajagobal lamented on the lack of aggression in the first half and the loss in concentration of his defenders, that led to the Singapore goal in the 72nd minute.

"We have to work hard to lift our standard a notch higher and minimize mistakes to stand out and be counted among the football powers.

"The players need to be physically and mentally prepared to face any challenges, equipped with better skills, commitment and dedication," he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore head coach,  Radojko Avramovic said he was glad that his players had achieved the goals to advance into the third round of the 2014 World Cup qualifier.

"Key to the success was my players showing good discipline and played well. This is not our first time playing in front of a huge crowd. We have a lot of experience and had no fear playing in front of the Malaysian supporters," he said.

Ministers happy with the national team

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin urged Malaysian fans to continue supporting the national team although the Harimau Malaya did not make it to the next round of the Asian Zone Qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He said the national team put a good fight against Singapore in the return leg of their second round qualifier at the Bukit Jalil Stadium here Thursday night although the match ended in a 1-1 draw and Malaysia lost by a 4-6 aggregate.

"Tonight's match was also very exciting," he said in commenting on the match.

Muhyiddin and several other Cabinet ministers had joined some 85,000 fans in cheering the Harimau Malaya.

FA of Malaysia deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Razali were among the other dignitaries in the VIP box. "Looking at the huge turnout (of fans), it augurs well for the development of football in the country," added Muhyiddin.

Tengku Abdullah said although Malaysia performed admirably, he was deeply saddened that Malaysia did not advance to the next round.

His sentiments were also echoed by Hishammuddin.

"It's hugely dissapointing that we were not able to qualify although we put up a good performance. But I can see Malaysian football is on the uptrend," said Hishammuddin.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Shabery said though the battle may have been lost, it was still a good beginning for Malaysian football.

"The national squad showed true fighting spirit. I am very satisfied with with the players' performance and we can only go up from here," he said.

Malaysian PM proud of the team

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk  Seri Najib Tun Razak gave the thumbs up to the Malaysian players despite bowing out of the 2014 World Cup Qualifier to Singapore on a 6-4 aggregate.

Singapore who had won the first leg of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifier 5-3 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore on Saturday, managed a 1-1 draw in the second leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here Thursday night, to advance on a 6-4 aggregate.

Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor who attended a people's dinner themed 'Perdana Menteri Bersama Rakyat' at Dewan Wawasan here watched the live telecast of the match on a big screen with 2,000 others.

The Prime Minister and 2,000 other supporters were jumping for joy when Mohd Safee Sali scored Malaysia's first goal in the 57th minute but had to be contended with the 1-1 draw as Singapore equalised in the 72nd minute.

Najib who is in Kedah for a one day official visit told reporters after the match that he was proud of the players who had shown loads of determination and commitment during the match.

"We were in for a tough time due to the two-goal deficit since Singapore had won 5-3 in the first leg last week.

"However, I am happy to see their fighting spirit. I want the players to consider the loss as a lesson to strengthen their performance in the future," he said.<

Passionate Malaysian fans

Simply electrifying ! That was the only way to describe the atmosphere amid scenes of much excitement and anticipation in Bukit Jalil as fans, young and old, stood outside the National Stadium yesterday for the World Cup second round, return leg qualifying match hours before the 8.45pm kick-off.
The "Causeway battle" between Malaysia and Singapore drew a sell-out crowd as all 87,000 tickets were taken up a day before the match.

However, tickets were available on the black market, with each sold at RM300 by touts at the National Stadium and also on local websites.

Asked about the sale of tickets on the black market, FA of Malaysia (FAM) ticketing committee chairman Datuk S. Sivasundram said efforts would be made to eradicate this problem in future.
"It is sometimes tough to control this as once tickets are sold over the counter, it is entirely up to the fans to do whatever they want with them," said Sivasundram at the National Stadium yesterday.

The stadium gates were opened at 5pm and thousands of fans rushed in to get a seat while some hung their banners around sections of the terraces.

Some banners read: "100 per cent Malaysians, NO FOREIGNERS", "Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku" and "Musuhnya Habis Binasa".

It was clear that the fans, led by the national team's official fan club -- Ultras Malaya -- were all hyped up for the match.

In the parking lot, music blared, and the smell of "kebab" and "kacang kukus" filled the air as fans, clad mostly in blue and yellow mingled, in harmony.

There was a small group of Singapore fans in the stadium but they could not be heard due to the deafening noise coming from the local fans.

Security was also tight as more than 1,500 enforcement officers were stationed in and outside the stadium as early as 3pm.

Fans waved banners, blew horns and did the Mexican wave before the kick-off. They also cheered when the national players entered the pitch for their warm-up.

FAM vice-president Hamidin Amin said that in his years of involvement in football, he has never seen such enthusiasm from local fans.

"The response from the fans is tremendous. It is a historic day for Malaysian football in terms of fans turnout," he said.

Among the VIPs who watched the match were FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

Malaysia let down by poor defending

THERE is no question where the blame lies for Malaysia's exit from the World Cup Asian zone qualifiers as far as Safee Sali is concerned.Another defensive blunder in the second leg yesterday allowed Singapore to claim a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil and reach the third round on a 6-4 aggregate success.

The third round draw will be held in Brazil tomorrow.

Malaysia paid dearly for a catastrophic display in the first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium where they lost 5-3. And even Safee's three goals over the two matches could not prevent the national team's premature exit in the qualifiers.
"This is a very disappointing result," said Safee after the game.

"I want to apologise to the Malaysian public and the fans here for our failure. We tried as hard as we could but after we led 1-0, we lost concentration in defence.

"It was yet another mistake by the defence which led to their goal," added Safee, who gave Malaysia hope when he drilled home a shot from the edge of the box in the 58th minute.

Questions will be raised over whether centre-back Aidil Zafuan Radzak was fit to start after having to be substituted with just 22 minutes, limiting coach K. Rajagobal's tactical options.

Muslim Ahmad came on to resume his partnership with Fadhli Shas but poor marking allowed Aleksandar Duric, so lethal in the first leg, to head backwards unchallenged to Shi Jiayi who had the easiest task of slotting to the right of goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat in the 72nd minute.

Had it not been for Fahmi, Malaysia could have been severely embarrassed with the goalkeeper pulling off two fine saves in the first half from Qiu Li and Duric, who were both aided by poor offside decisions of the assistant referee.

Fahmi produced a finger-tip save from a Shaiful Esah free-kick and then denied Qiu Li in a one-on-one situation to keep Malaysia in the game.

But even as Malaysia tried to push for the two goals they needed, substitute Ahmad Fakri Saarani's double booking ended the match as a contest.

"It's not the result I wanted, we should have won the match," said Rajagobal.

"At certain times we did well, I was happy with the second-half performance. When we got the first goal it was game on. We should have got the second but injuries (to Singapore players) delayed our momentum.

"With the (Singapore) players lying on the ground, it disrupted our tempo and flow. There is a lot of room for improvement, we had another lapse of concentration.

"Having to change Aidil probably didn't help the defence to settle down but we tried hard to attack."

The absence of captain Safiq Rahim through suspension and striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha through injury hit Malaysia hard.

"We did not have Safiq and Norshahrul. Going into the game in this situation was not easy.

"Credit should be give to the players for trying, they will learn from this. Also I want to thank the fans for having the belief in us and turning out in such big numbers."

Singapore coach unhappy with referee

Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic was furious with Japanese referee Takayama Hiroyoshi for almost causing his team a spot in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers yesterday.

According to the Serb, the referee had the whistle in his mouth but hesitated when Kunanlan was tackled by one of his players near the penalty box.

"It resulted in a goal as Kunanlan continued play by passing the ball to Safee (Sali), who then put Malaysia in the lead in the second half. My players stopped play thinking the referee would blow the whistle for a foul on Kunanlan," Avramovic told reporters after the match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil

"It is poor refereeing. But luckily we came back strongly and scored through Shi Jiayi. I think my players played good and disciplined football. Everyone in the team was at their best."

Singapore players were also found guilty of resorting to time wasting throughout the match but Avramovic defended his players' actions by stating some of his players had picked up injuries then.

"It wasn't time wasting. My players were in pain as some fouls were bad. One of my players was fouled by the same Malaysian player three times but the referee did not give him a card," he said.

He, however, commended the Malaysian players for their never-say-die attitude.
"I think it was a superb game as both teams played very hard. Malaysia really tried their best but this is football... we got the result we wanted in this match," said the 61-year-old.

On whether Singapore would have beaten Malaysian 6-4 on aggregate without their foreign players, Avramovic stressed that the ones played yesterday were naturalised players.

"You cannot compare Singapore with Malaysia as we do not have a huge base to choose from. We also do not have many teams in our league.

"What is wrong selecting naturalised players to play for Singapore? If they can improve our football then why not," he added.

Malaysian PM satisfied with team's performance

The National Stadium was filled to the brim with yellow and blue as football fans watched the titanic clash between Malaysia and Singapore in the return match of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifier.

Many others also packed mamak stalls and restaurants to watch the action live on television.
Soon after the game began at 8.45pm, hundreds who claimed they had tickets were locked out.
They believed fake tickets were sold to unsuspecting buyers, while some claimed syndicates were involved in over-selling the tickets.

Many fans came to the stadium hours earlier to avoid the rush and massive traffic jams occurred on major roads leading to Bukit Jalil.

Puteri Ariane Yasmin Middleton was already there with her family at 2pm.
Senior manager Khairul Imran Adnan, 49, said he and his friends took the day off to watch the game.

“We arrived at around 4.30pm and we were excited to watch our team play,” he said.
Financial consultant Jasnie Syukur, 30, who was at a mamak stall in SS2, Petaling Jaya, said he rushed there from work to catch the game.

Kenneth Raj, 24, said the Harimau Malaya team had improved since it won the Suzuki Cup.
He said the match against Singapore had united Malaysians who supported different English Premier League teams a week earlier.

In Jitra, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak gave two thumbs up to Harimau Malaya for a solid performance against Singapore.

He said the national team, which faced a two-goal deficit, fought hard but could not overcome their opponents.

“This is not the end of the road for them. They should learn from this,” he said after watching the match at Dewan Wawasan.

At the National Stadium, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said both teams performed well.

“We must also applaud some 85,000 Malaysian fans who supported our team with high spirits until the end,” he said after the match.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia's performance had improved significantly compared to last year.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Shabery Cheek said Malaysians should not be discouraged for not qualifying for the World Cup and that he was satisfied with Harimau Malaya's performance.

Malaysian fans make it a carnival atmosphere

The National Stadium was filled to the brim with 90,000-odd fans hours before the 8.45pm kick-off. Outside, many more – including those with valid tickets – were still trying to get in.

That was the chaotic situation at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday as Malaysia did battle with Singapore in the second leg, second round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifier.
Malaysia had lost the first leg tie 3-5 at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

But that did not stop the fans from converging on the National Stadium armed with flags, banners, scarves; dressed in the national stripes; and with their faces painted in the Harimau Malaya colours.

This is clearly one of the biggest ever turnout at the stadium since the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

There is no love lost between the two national football teams. The traditional rivalry between the two cross–strait sides goes back a long way even in the Malaysia Cup more than two decades ago.

So passionate were these die-hard fans that they were willing to brave the notorious rush-hour traffic to make their way to the stadium as early as 4pm.

There were also scenes of mass celebration at Bukit Jalil as fans congregated outside the vicinity of the National Stadium for several hours before the 8.45pm kick-off.
They were seen waving the Jalur Gemilang and singing patriotic songs to make it look like the scene of National Day celebrations.

The noise went up a notch when the stadium turnstiles were opened at 5pm.

Once inside, the Malaysian supporters wasted no time in putting up giant banners around the stands. Among the standouts banners were the ones which read “Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku” and “100% Malaysians, No Foreigners”, in an apparent dig at Singapore’s use of naturalised players. A small section of the crowd turned up with cards written ‘3-0’, depicting the ideal scoreline required to go through.

In stark contrast to the sea of yellow and blue, the visiting fans numbering around 500 and decked in red and white were hardly visible in the stadium. The visiting supporters’ cheers were also drowned out by the vociferous jeers of the home team’s fans when the Singapore team trooped out onto the field.

Moments later, a deafening roar erupted when the Malaysian players and Rajagopal emerged from the tunnel for the warm-up.

Among the dignitaries present at last night’s match were Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

Malaysian players need more time to mature

National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal has appealed to fans and critics to give his young side time to grow into a solid unit despite last night’s exit from the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers.

He was quick to emphasise that the team was being groomed to qualify on merit for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

Malaysia crashed out of the second round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers after holding Singapore to a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium last night. Singapore, who won the first leg 5-3, thus go through with a 6-4 aggregate.

“We have to remember that the team is being prepared for the 2015 Asian Cup. These players will mature in four years’ time and they can only get better,” said the former international.

“We didn’t qualify for the next round ... but we also didn’t lose in front of our own crowd. I believe we have given our supporters a good game.

“Injuries and delaying tactics broke our attacking rhythm and momentum. A lapse in concentration in defence caused us to concede the equaliser.”

Despite the exit, Rajagopal can take heart from the fact that six of the players – Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Mahali Jasuli, Mohd Fadhli Shas, G. Gurusamy and substitute stiker Izzaq Farris Ramlan – who featured last night are still eligble for this year’s SEA Games in Indonesia and next year’s London Olympics.

Rajagopal, though unhappy with the exit, can take pride in his players’ second-half performance against Singapore.

“We should have won the match ... but as a coach I’m happy with my players’ performance,” he said.

“It’s not fair to blame any player. It’s a team game and we all have to share the blame.”

Meanwhile, Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic denied that his players had faked injuries.

“We played a very good game and our defence was tremendously disciplined throughout the game,” said Avramovic.

“I don’t think my players went down too easily. The players I substituted were injured and were not faking injuries.”

He was also quick to praise the Malaysian team and fans.

“I like to see stadiums packed with fans ... the atmosphere was great,” he said.

“The Malaysian team played well and have a good future. It’s just that we were better than them today.”

Singapore destroys Malaysia's World Cup dreams

Malaysia tried valiantly but still came up short when it mattered most. And the chance to make history evaporated when they could only hold Singapore to a 1-1 draw in the return leg of their Asian Zone World Cup second round qualifiers at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Singapore, who won the first-leg tie 5-3 at the Jalan Bandar Stadium last Saturday, thus qualified for the third round on 6-4 aggregate.

It also dashed Malaysia’s hopes of progressing beyond the second round for the first time since they began competing in the qualifying rounds in 1974.

Malaysia needed to win last night’s clash by two clear goals and, for a while, there was a glimmer of hope when Safee Sali cracked in the first goal in the 58th minute.

 But the 90,000-odd capacity crowd at the stadium was silenced when Shi Jiayi equalised in the 73rd minute.

To make matters worse, substitute striker Ahmad Fakri Saarani was sent off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time.

Special praise must also go to goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat for keeping Malaysia in the game with his remarkable saves.

Singapore, powered by their five naturalised players, were simply too strong for Malaysian coach Datuk K. Rajagopal’s young side, whose target is to qualify on merit for the 2015 Asian Cup.

Singapore were hardly threatened in the opening half and it was the home team who looked vulnerable at the back, with their sloppy defending.

It was left to Khairul to save Malaysia the blushes with three brilliant saves.

Malaysia failed to show any urgency and could barely muster a decent shot at goal, with Safee well contained by a steady Singapore defence led by Muhd Safuwan Baharudin and Shaiful Esah.

Safee’s partner-in-crime, Abdul Hadi Yahaya, was barely in the game.

The gaping hole left in the engine room due to Safiq Rahim’s absence through suspension and the 23rd-minute exit of centre-back Mohd Aidil Zafuan with an ankle injury added to Malaysia’s woes.

Singapore began strongly, coming close twice through flankers Qiu Li and Jiayi. The duo were simply irresistable, easily breaching the Malaysian defence in the 10th and 15th minutes but both times found Khairul unbeatable with point-blank attempts.

Khairul then had to dive full length to stop Shaiful Esah’s free kick from sneaking in at the top corner in the 40th minute.

Singapore looked more composed with their neat passing game while Malaysia only threatened in patches and were no threat to the Lions’ goalkeeper Mohd Izwan Mahbud.

Referee Takayama Hiroyoshi of Japan stopped play at the half-hour mark when Singapore goalkeeper Mohd Izwan complained of a laser being beamed at his face. An announcement was made through the PA system that the game would be called off if the fans continued with such acts.

Malaysia began the second half in offensive mode and their persistence paid off when Safee found the net with a powerful shot from inside the box, beating the outstretched Mohd Izwan in the 58th minute.

The goal was orchestrated by the tireless Kunalan, who squeezed his little body between two Singapore defenders to put Safee through.

And the prolific striker’s crack at goal sent the 90,000 fans into a frenzy.

It was now 1-0 in Malaysia’s favour but Singapore were ahead 4-5 on aggregate.

Ahmad Fakri came on for the ineffective Abdul Hadi in the 65th minute but it did not matter when the Malaysian backline cracked in the 73rd minute as Jiayi sneaked past two defenders to beat Khairul from close range.

Even the staunchest Malaysian fan knew then that the road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was all over.

Malaysia: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mahalli Jasuli, Mohd Asraruddin Putra, Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak (Mohd Muslim Ahmad), Mohd Fadhli Shas, Amar Rohidan, Ismail Faruqi (K. Gurusamy), S. Kunalan, Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal, Mohd Safee Sali, Abdul Hadi Yahaya (Ahmad Fakri Saarani).

Singapore: Mohd Izwan Mahbud, Daniel Bennett, Mohd Safuwan Baharudin, Shaiful Esah (Mohd Isa Abdul Halim), Harris Harun, Shi Jiayi, Qiu Li, Mustafic Fahrudin, Aleksander Duric, Shahril Ishak (Fazrul Nawaz), Juma’at Jantan.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Malaysia to attack from the start

Malaysia have no option but to attack from the start when they entertain Singapore in the second round return-leg clash at Bukit Jalil National Stadium tonight (8.45pm).

Malaysia was beaten 5-3 in the first-leg at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday. No doubt the outcome of any fo otba l l mat c h boils down to tactical play but national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal will have to set his men on attack mode from the very first kick.

If Malaysia do not do that, then we can kiss goodbye our hopes of re aching the final round of the Asian qualifiers. The Tigers have two capable wingers in S. Kunalan and Mohd Amirul Hadi Zainal who can create havoc although the latter is often used as a substitute.

Amirul Hadi has terrorised defences countless times as proven in the first-leg. It is time for the Selangor star to be given a start. Obviously, the not-so-solid Singapore defence is there for the taking.

There's contention that perhaps Amirul Hadi does not have the stamina to last 90 minutes but he has been playing full games for Selangor in the Super League. In the first-leg, Malaysia attacked along the left, using Kunalan's pace.

He kept the Lions defence busy and their often-scrambling rightback Ismail Yunos was sent off when he received a second yellow card in the secondhalf. Singapore will have problems if Rajagobal starts with the duo.

Picture this — two wingers constantly pressuring the defence w i t h hitman Safee Sali and Super League topscorer Abdul Hadi Yahya running in the centre. Amirul Hadi and Kunalan are likely to beat their markers and leave space for the strikers.

Speaking of Hadi, the Terengganu striker should also start the match instead of Ahmad Fakri Saarani. He comes into the team full of confidence. He finished the Super League with 20 goals and also scored a crucial one in the first-leg.

Hadi has four international caps and Ismail Faruqi Ashari earned his first cap last week. It's not that the Negri Sembilan player is not capable of delivering but he is more of a winger, a position in which Amirul Hadi will be more effective.

There is likely to be changes at the back too. Negri Sembilan defender Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak is likely to start after recovering from injury.

Despite being only 23, he is the most experienced defender in the team. Malaysia's defence was porous in the first-leg and Aidil's inclusion will be a major boost.

Goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is another player who may return now that he has recovered from a shoulder injury. Regarded by many as the first-choice, Khairul had said he was ready to play tonight. Should Malaysia turn the tie around, Rajagobal and his charges will surely be in the histor y books as Malaysia have never reached the final continental stage.

Not even during the times of legends like the late Mokhtar Dahari, Hassan Sani, Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun have Malaysia achieved this honour.

Malaysia did qualify for two Olympics though, in 1972 and 1980. There is a certain aura among the players and fans alike. This may well be Malaysia's moment to step onto the larger stage.

Malaysian PM to watch match in Kedah

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will watch the football match between Malaysia and Singapore with 10,000 people in Kedah on Thursday.

Najib said that while he would have loved to be at the National Stadium cheering for Harimau Malaya, his visit to Kedah had been agreed upon sometime ago.

Najib said this to coach Datuk K. Rajagopal in a telephone conversation before chairing the 1Malaysia online roundtable discussion here on Wednesday.

He said he told Rajagopal that the entire country would be behind him to see Malaysia winning the game.

“I am sorry I can't be there but I will be watching the game with 10,000 people in Kedah. I have changed the function format so that there is big screen so that we can all cheer for you from there,” he told the coach.

Malaysian fans warming up for the match early

Thousands of Harimau Malaya fans decked in the team colours of yellow and black are now at National Stadium Bukit Jalil to watch the return leg of the Asian Zone World Cup between Malaysia and Singapore.

Fans waved the national flags, continuously sang and cheered for the national team as they waited for the kick-off at 8.45pm.

Many fans said they had arrived early as they expected the national team to win. Nobody entertained any thought of defeat tonight. Singapore beat Malaysia 5-3 in the first-leg.

The sold out match is being carried live on Astro Arena.

Malaysian fan and student Ariane Yasmin Middleton said she left home as early as 2pm to make sure that she would arrive at the match.

“My brothers and I left home early to avoid the traffic,” she told The Star.

She predicted that Harimau Malaya would be able to beat Singapore in tonight's game.
“We are only behind by two goals. It should be no problem,” she said.

Senior manager Khairul Imran Adnan, 49, said he took the day off just for the game.
“I believe they will perform better in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our team has more stamina and I hope they will win tonight,” he noted.

Malaysian fans in high spirits for the Singapore match

Thought Malaysia face an uphill task when they take on southern neighbours Singapore in the return leg of the Asian Zone World Cup second round qualifying match tonight at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, local fans are in high spirits. They believe Malaysia can turn the tide against the Lions.

Like the aphorism that reads “the early bird catches the worm”, scores of fans were seen lining up at the stadium yesterday to get tickets for the match.

Malaysia go into the match with a two-goal deficit, having lost the first encounter 5-3. Fans who managed to get tickets were ecstatic and contrastingly those who did not went home disappointed as the tickets were sold out shortly before noon.

Traders around the stadium were laughing their way to the bank as they enjoyed brisk business. The fans also picked up the assortment of yellow and black football merchandise in support of the national team.

Public relations practitioner Ravind Ramesh, 34, who has been supporting the national team with friends on many occasions, said: “Sometimes there’s a big group but even if there are only two of us, we would go. We usually designate one person to buy the tickets.”

Ravind said he was expecting the Tigers to maul the Lions with a two-goal winning margin.
In Petaling Street, football fans were also seen snapping up football jerseys for the match.

Pos Malaysia worker Zarulnizam Ibrahim, 32, said he would be going with his colleagues.
“We’re bringing our children so we’re buying the jerseys for them as well,” he said.

Kuala Lumpur traffic police Asst Comm Rusli Mohd Noor said police officers will be there to control the traffic flow.

“We advise the public to take public transportation because there is limited parking spaces at the venue,” he said.

With a full capacity crowd expected tonight, RapidKL will be extending the operation hours of all its rail services.

The LRT Ampang Line, which runs directly to Bukit Jalil, will be extending its services until 12.30am while the operations of the LRT Kelana Jaya Line and the KL Monorail will be extended until 1am, said Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana).

The extension for the Kelana Jaya Line, however, is only for entry at Masjid Jamek while for KL Monorail, it would be for entrance at its Hang Tuah station, the statement said, adding that on normal operations, the rail services would conclude at 11.45pm.

In the statement, Prasarana, which is the umbrella company for RapidKL, also advised fans taking the trains to purchase return journey tickets to avoid long queues after the match.

“We will be opening special counters to sell return journey tickets from 3pm on Thursday at our interchange stations at Masjid Jamek, Hang Tuah and Bandar Tasek Selatan. We would also like to advise fans to be tolerant when queuing for train tickets and to take the trains in an orderly manner,” the statement added.