Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad joins Johor as technical adviser

Less than two weeks after the M-League kicked off, the Johor FA has a new president and a new technical adviser too.

The winds of change took place last week when the association's royal patron  Tengku Ismail Sultan Iskandar announced via Twitter that he had taken over as  president from incumbent Mohd Jais Sarday, who is also the state executive councillor for youth and sports.

There was more to come when Singapore's best known footballer Fandi Ahmad, a household name in this region, was brought in by Tengku Ismail as the FA's technical adviser to "work closely" with head coach K. Sukumaran.

Fandi, who  played Malaysia Cup football with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Pahang,  signed a three-year contract with the Johor FA and officially starts work on Thursday although he has been helping out with the team since last week.

Fandi had a training session with the team before Johor played  Sime Darby in Pasir Gudang last Friday. Johor scored a come-from-behind 2-1 win to move into fifth place in the 12-team Premier League on nine points.

Prior to that Johor, one of the three unbeaten teams in the league -- the other two are current leaders Police (11 points) and second-placed Pahang (10 points) -- were dubbed the draw specialists after three draws.

"It is a challenge as Johor are a young and inexperienced team. Sukumaran and  I had discussions on this matter. Johor have the material to be a team of reckoning," said Fandi who  also played professional football in Indonesia and Holland (FC Groningen) during his heydays in the 1980s.

It is learnt that Tengku Ismail wants to "cut out politics" in the sport and rebuild Johor into a football powerhouse. Johor won the Malaysia Cup in 1985 and became the first team to clinch a double in 1991 (League Cup and Malaysia Cup) under Australian coach Michael Urukalo.
Johor's target this season is to win promotion to the Super League next year.

Selangor still looking for top striker

Selangor hope to solve their striking woes soon.

The Red Giants will check out Amadou Konte of Mali and Bosko Balaban of Croatia in a friendly against the National Under-23 team at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tonight.

The 32-time Malaysia Cup winners have dropped Congolese striker Lelo Mbele, who is recovering from a torn thigh muscle injury – the same one that forced his previous club Al-Nasr Benghazi to release him.

And Selangor coach Irfan Bakti, who guided Terengganu to FA Cup victory last season, is hoping that one of the two foreign players on trial will be the answer to his prayer.

“I believe that signing a quality striker will solve our goal-scoring problems,” said Irfan, who took over as Selangor coach last November.

“We have a good bunch of players and we are formidable, especially in midfield. The team have been playing well and creating chances but the absence of a top class poacher has let us down.”

Irfan has been forced to deploy Selangor skipper Amri Yahyah and the out-of-sorts R. Surendran to lead the attack in the absence of Mbele but to no avail.

The blunt strike force has left the Klang Valley giants lying fifth in the Super League standings with eight points from five matches.

Striker Norshahrul ready to put country over club

Striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha will put country first when the national team take on Kelantan in a friendly at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tomorrow.

The national team are taking advantage of the international break to prepare for the Suzuki Cup AFF, which will be held from Nov 24-Dec 22.

“I will give 100% to the national team when we play against my club Kelantan,” said Norshahrul, who bagged the Supermokh MVP Award twice in the last two years.

“We have several new players joining the national team this time and it’s good for the team to have more options. It is also definitely good to prepare early for the AFF Cup.

“We have to defend our AFF Cup crown. It won’t be as easy as winning it the first time but we will be prepared for it.”

The national team are also scheduled to play friendlies against Saudi Arabia on Feb 24 and the Philippines on Feb 29.

Norshahrul, who was in the national team that lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in a friendly back in 2009, believes it will be good for the team to test themselves against the Asian giants.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to play against the Saudis, who are one of the best Asian teams around,” said the 25 year-old Terengganu-born player.

“I believe the friendly against them will be a good lesson for the new players in the team. As for myself, I will try my best to score against them.”

Monday, 30 January 2012

Selangor coach Irfan Bakti happy about ending poor record against T-Team

It was a happy return to Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday for Irfan Bakti.

Not only did the Selangor coach manage to end his team's four-match winless run against T-Team with a 2-1 victory on Saturday, he also walked away with his head held high.

Irfan said most T-Team fans, who are also Terengganu supporters, did not blame him for leaving Terengganu soon after the Malaysia Cup final last season.

"They knew what was going on and in their eyes, I was not a traitor," said the former Terengganu coach who brought home the FA Cup, finished second in the Super League and became Malaysia Cup runners-up last year.

Prior to the away trip, the Kelantan-born coach said he knew there would not be a hostile reception for him in Kuala Terengganu but admitted it would be nice to win on his return to the ground he called home for two seasons.

His wish came true when Ramez Dayoub scored from the penalty spot after 36 minutes and Azidan Sarudin headed in the winner 13 minutes from time after Zairo Anuar Zailani had equalised, also from a spotkick, just three minutes after the break.

Irfan said it was an important win for Selangor who, after a dismal start, needed a spark to light up their season again.

"The jinx against T-Team has been broken at last and this is a perfect turning point for us to start our climb up the league table.

"It is still early days in the league and we are now fifth, five points from leaders Kelantan after five matches," said Irfan, who plans to have a new foreign striker in his team when LionsXII FC come visiting on Feb 7.

Meanwhile, T-Team coach Yunus Alif said it was unfortunate to lose striker Zachariah Simukonda to an ankle injury early in the second half.

"He won us the penalty when Dayoub brought him down in the penalty box but he went out injured soon after when were were on a good run," said Yunus.

"We still have problems upfront where our strikers are not clinical enough. We need to do something fast before our next match away to Negri Sembilan."   Yunus said his team were taught valuable lessons in their two consecutive losses, first to Terengganu and then to Selangor.

"Terengganu and Selangor play good football and we were not quite ready for them after playing Kedah, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah earlier.

"Now they should know that they cannot afford to make the tiniest of mistakes when playing teams like Terengganu and Selangor or they will pay heavy price."

Terengganu and Perak chasing unbeaten Kelantan for Super League title

The Super League title race is fast developing into another East Coast affair but not if Perak have anything to say about it while the situation at the bottom is getting just as heated. 

Amidst revolt by their fans, Kedah caretaker coach Nidzam Adzha Yusof quit after just five games in charge in the first coaching casualty of the season, leaving his side second-from-bottom and with just one goal scored all season.

Defending champions Kelantan, however, are serenely leading the standings by a point from Terengganu and Perak, who both claimed precious away wins, after strolling to a 3-0 win over Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Coach Peter Butler did not broach the subject of retaining their title but heaped praise on his side who remain unbeaten after the Charity Shield defeat to Negri Sembilan.

"The players showed good understanding and teamwork and I told them the day before the game that we had to start well and maintain a high tempo and spirit. I'm glad they did that," said Butler after the game.

KL kept Kelantan at bay for the first half in large part due to the heroics of goalkeeper Amirul Abu Seman, who was making his Super League debut, but Kelantan's quality told in the second half as Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Badhri Radzi with a delightful free-kick and Dennis Antwi grabbed the goals.

It left the city team rooted to the bottom of the standings with just one point and relegation after three seasons in the top-flight a real possibility.

"We tried to rise to the occasion but we failed to take our chances. The pressure really begin to tell when conceded the second and third goals, which were mostly due to our own mistakes," said KL coach Razip Ismail, whose side came closest to scoring when an Afiq Azmi effort hit the post before half-time.

Perak had a bit of luck when Khairan Ezuan Razali turned a cross into his own net as Felda United were beaten 2-1 in Malacca while Terengganu kept alive their own title ambitions as Francis Doe scored the winner in a 1-0 triumph over LionsXII in Singapore, leading coach Mat Zan Mat Aris to sing the Liberian's praises.

"That was his fourth goal in three games but this team is not all about Francis. He has made an important contribution with his ball control and ability to beat his opponent and score out of nothing.

"He was heavily marked against Lions but still scored the winner although we do have other players who have contributed as well. It's a team sport and all the players have a role to play not just Francis," said Mat Zan during a brief stopover in Kuala Lumpur en route to Kuala Terengganu yesterday.

Kedah, meanwhile, have put Radhi Mat Din in charge after Nidzam said he wants to return to coaching the President's Cup squad following a 3-1 defeat to Johor FC in Alor Star.

Protests by hundreds of Kedah fans continued after the game calling for the head of team manager Datuk Khazali Din, who again reiterated his refusal to bow to popular demand.

"There's no reason for me to quit, it's up to the management to decide. As long as nothing untoward happens, they can continue to protest," Khazali told RTM on Saturday.

Radhi led a revival of fortunes when he took temporary charge of Kedah last year after Azraai Khor Abdullah was sacked and his first game in command will be a trip to Malacca to face KL in a bottom-of-the-table clash on Feb 8.

Kelantan hoping to maintain form after international break

Kelantan coach Peter Butler believes his Super League pacesetters can do much better when they return from the international break on Feb 4.

The Red Warriors came under heavy criticism after losing the season-opening Charity Shield tie to Negri Sembilan. But they have since turned their season around by winning four and drawing one of the five matches to remain the only unbeaten side in the league.

“I’m happy to see Kelantan leading the Super League standings. The players are slowly finding their form,” said Butler. “My plan is to look at our situation after 10 matches. But it’s good to see them doing well at the half way mark.”

The Englishman said Kelantan still have to work on their finishing.

“Our execution in the final third is still not sharp enough. It’s something we need to work on,” he said after watching his team beat bottom side Kuala Lumpur 3-0 on Saturday.

“My players are a bit gung-ho at the moment. They must learn to tone down a bit when they go on the attack. They must work hard as a team.”

Terengganu glad to beat Singapore on artificial pitch

Terengganu are glad that they managed to overcome their fear of playing on an artificial pitch by edging Singapore 1-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium to keep pace with Super League leaders Kelantan.

The Turtles now have 12 points from five matches, just one behind Kelantan.

And it was Liberian striker Francis Doe who came to the Turtles’ rescue again on Saturday.

Terengganu coach Mat Zan Mat Aris was a happy man as “I was worried about my players’ ability to adapt to the Astroturf”.

“The first 25 minutes were crucial as we struggled to get used to the turf,” he said.

“We managed to get our game going after the shaky start and, looking back, it wasn’t much of a problem. My boys were able to control the ball well.”

Mat Zan also had to change his team’s style of play from long to short passes to suit the artificial turf.

“The strategy paid off as we were able to dictate the pace of the game,” he said.

Mat Zan was also pleased with Doe’s striking ability and general play.

“He has surpassed my expectations … having scored four goals in five games,” said Mat Zan. “Doe is special … he has lots of tricks up his sleeve and the ability to find the net from the most awkward of angles.”

Two other players – Shukor Jusoh and Faizal Muhammad – also caught the coach’s eyes.

“Faizal did exceptionally well in filling in for injured skipper Marzuki Yusof while Shukor held his own when called on to replace Reshafiq Alwi in midfield,” said Mat Zan.

“We are in a good position in the standings. We intend to take every chance that comes along to grab the top spot if Kelantan slip up.”

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Kedah acting coach Mohd Nidzam resigns after team's poor results

Kedah's acting coach Mohd Nidzam Adzha who stepped into the shoes of the suspended Wan Jamak Wan Hassan, resigned with immediate effect following the team's streak of poor results.

Wan Jamak was suspended for seven Super League matches by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for his alleged criticism of the standard of refereeing after his team drew 1-1 against Perak in their Group A match Malaysia Cup match on Sept 28.

Mohd Nidzam, a former Kedah and national striker, was the President's Cup coach before assuming the role of acting coach of the Super League team but the Kedah team has not achieved a win in five matches since the start of the M-League.

Last night was probably the last straw for Mohd Nidzam when he saw his charges go down 1-3 to Johor FC at their own backyard - Darul Aman Stadium - to remain at the bottom of the league table with two points from two draws.

Besides Wan Jamak, assistant coach Radzi Mat Din and the goalkeeper coach, Ahmad Sobri Ismail were also suspended for four matches.

Mohd Nidzam said he made the decision because despite his sincere efforts to lift the spirit of the team, they (the team) had failed to show any improvement in the league table.

"I am handing over the baton to assistant coach Radhi Mat Din and return to the President's Cup squad and focus on building that team," he told reporters here today.

Mohd Nidzam however, expressed confidence that the Kedah team would rise from their recent slump and improve their standing in the league.

He urged the players to no point fingers at each other for the failure but remain focused, determined and take full responsibility to improve their game.

Meanwhile, the Kedah Football Association (KFA) would conduct a post-mortem on the recent slump of the team so as to quickly identify reasons behind the spate of poor performances.

Team manager Datuk Khazali Din said the KFA had already acted swiftly by sacking both the foreign players in the squad, Daniel Soares Neves and Danilo Rafael Dos Santos Vivaldo from Brazil.

"Their contracts was terminated for not performing up to the mark. We had to pay RM150,000 each as compensation to terminate their services," he said.

Last night about 1,000 fans had gathered outside the Darul Aman Stadium long after the match against Johor FC was over, to register their protest against the squad's poor run of results.

The fans were demanding for the resignation of team manager Khazali who was later escorted out of the stadium by police as fans turned unruly.

Some fans who were not happy with the team manager, even went to the extend of chasing after his car to register their message, urging him to quit.

Kelantan beat Kuala Lumpur to maintain lead in Super League

Kelantan consolidated its position at the top of the Super League table while Terengganu, another east coast side, kept pace with the leader after collecting three points from their respective matches  played Saturday night.

Kelantan beat Kuala Lumpur 3-0 at the Sultan Mohamed IV Stadium in Kota Baharu for their fourth win in five matches, amassing 13 points while Terengganu who scored a slim 1-0 victory over the Singapore Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore have 12 points.

Perak who beat Felda United at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka have also collected 12 points but trail Terengganu in third place due to an inferior goal difference.

Norshahrul Idlan Talaha opened the score for Kelantan in the 46th minute while Antwi Dennis Agyre made it 2-0 in the 76th minute and Mohd Badri Mohd Radzi completed the convincing win with a 78th minute strike.

In Singapore, Francis Doe Forkey was the hero for Terengganu with his 77th minute goal.

In Alor Setar, Kedah's poor form in the league continued when Johor FC went home with all three points after their 3-1 win at the Darul Aman Stadium.

Klang Valley giants Selangor returned to winning ways by beating T-Team 2-1 at the Sultan Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu with goals from Ramez Jamal Dayoub (38th min) and Azidan Sarudin (78th min) while Zairol Anuar Zalani (49th min) scored T-Team's only goal of the night.

At the Kuching Stadium, Sarawak came from behind twice to hold Negeri Sembilan to a 2-2 draw for a share of the points.

Ahmad Shakir Md Ali (21st min) and Shukor Adan (81st min) scored for Negeri Sembilan while Sarawak had to thank Guy Bwele (50th min penalty) and Zamri Morshidi (83rd min) for the draw.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Police beat Pahang to move into first place in Premier League

Police edged Pahang to lead the  Premier League after defeating Perlis 4-2 at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi Friday night.

However, they have played five matches as compared to four by Pahang who take on Armed Forces on Feb 3.

Khairul Izuan Abdullah was the hero for Police tonight, scoring all four of their goals in the 24th, 27th, 55th and 87th minutes while Perlis' goals were netted by Mohd Rizal Mohd Ghazali (3rd minute) and Mohd Khairul Ramadhan Mohd Zawawi (17th minute).

MP Muar also had a good night defeating Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru (MBJB FC) 5-2 at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Muar.

Mohd Alafi Mahmud scored a brace for the hosts with his goals coming in the 51st and 71st minutes while their other goals were supplied by Mohamad Syaiful Sabtu (76th), Mohd Azuwad Mohd Arip (90th) and Abdul Rayjal Abdul Jalil (91st).

MBJB's goals were provided by Azmi Sarmin in the 9th minute (penalty) and 92nd minute.

At the Pasir Gudang Stadium, Johor edged Sime Darby FC 2-1 with the club side the first to score through their Liberian import Sengbah Kennedy in the 5th minute but Fahruzzahar Ali neutralised the advantage in the 13th minute before Mohd Hamzani Omar netted the winner in the 54th minute.

Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia FC (USM FC) had a comfortable 3-1 victory over Harimau Muda B at USM's athletics stadium in George Town with their goals coming through S. Veenod (36th, 60th) and Muhammad Faizad Ghazali (57th) while Mohd Norhamizaref Hamid scored the consolation goal for the visitors in the 7th minute.

However, Pos Malaysia were not so lucky. They lost 2-3 to Negeri Sembilan club side Betaria FC at the Selayang Stadium.

PKNS and Sabah draw in Super League

In the sole Super League match played last night, Selangor PKNS were tied to a 2-2 draw against Sabah at the Petaling Jaya City Council Stadium.

Both PKNS' goals were netted by their French import Mickael Nicoise Joseph (44th, 53rd) while Sabah's goals came through their Australian import  Michael William Baird in the 74th minute and an own goal by Mohd Helmi Remeli in the 82nd minute.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sarawak set to sign Croatian striker Murato Viz

Super League newcomers Sarawak and Cameroon striker Kalle Sonne are parting ways even before the 29-year-old has kicked a ball in competition.

Coach Robert Alberts had high hopes on Sonne but a groin injury he picked while playing in a friendly against the President's Cup team before the league got underway is much more serious than initially thought, which has forced Sarawak to sign a new foreign striker.

The Crocs are now in the midst of registering Croatian hit-man Murato Viz who has been training with them for the past week.

It is not known if he will get the green light for Sarawak's home match against  Malaysia Cup champions Negri Sembilan tomorrow.

"Sarawak need a foreign striker to help score goals.

"We lost to Sabah and Terengganu because their foreign players scored against us.

"Sonne's injury has been a huge blow to us.

"I am convinced the results of our last three matches would have been  different if Sonne had played," said Alberts from Kuching, referring to Sarawak's 2-1 defeat to Sabah (away), 1-0 to Terengganu (home) and the scoreless draw against Selangor away.

Sarawak started off their Super League campaign with a 2-0 win over  Kuala Lumpur at home.

"So far we have done well ...we are on par with the other teams in the league.

"Our biggest problem has been not scoring from the many opportunities that we created.

"Our strike force is very young with three players aged either 21 and 22.

"We lack a composed striker and Sonne, with his European (playing) experience would have made the difference."

Sarawak's other foreigner is defender Guy Bwele, 27, also from Cameroon.

Sabah coach worried over live telecast jinx

Some coaches may look forward to their teams playing in matches broadcasted live but not Justin Ganai.

The Sabah coach feels uneasy every time his team are about to play in a live-telecast match and he has every reason to feel that way again ahead of the away match against Selangor PKNS today.

"The game will be shown live on Astro Arena and that cannot be good for us as up until now, we have managed to lose every match we play 'live' on television.

"I am not all that superstitious but I cannot help thinking about this after losing all four live-telecast matches last year (to Kelantan, T-Team, Perak and Kedah) and all those losses were by a solitary goal," he said.

Justin said he had hoped for a different result when Sabah's home match against Lions XII FC was shown live last Saturday.

"But it ended with us losing by a single goal margin and I cannot say that I was surprised by the result.

"Personally speaking, I think we have a live-game jinx  and we will have to be at our best if we were to break this jinx tomorrow (today)," he said.

The coach said Sabah did not play badly against Singapore  as they  dominated possession and created numerous goal-scoring chances.

"But we could not even score a single goal whereas  Singapore had a single freekick in the first half and they found the back of our net.

"Defender Mafry Balang, who was red-carded in that match, will not be at the MBPJ Stadium ) but the rest of the squad have promised to end the jinx and walk away with at least a point," he said.

Kelantan defender Subramaniam called up for national team

Kelantan centre-back S. Subramaniam is ready to resurrect his international career after being sidelined for three years.

The former Perak player made his senior debut against Indonesia in 2008 and was also in the squads for the 2008 Merdeka Tournament and Myanmar Grand Royal Challenge Cup under national coach B. Sathianathan.

 However, Subra’s career came to a standstill when Perak were hit by financial difficulties.
 It wasn’t until his mentor Sathianathan signed him up for Kelantan in 2010 that his fortunes shone again.

The 27-year-old tough tackling defender became a hit with the Red Warriors, playing a pivotal role in helping the east coast side win the Malaysia Cup that year and the Super League crown last year.

Despite a strong showing in the Super League and a tenacious display when he skippered the Malaysian XI against Chelsea in a friendly last year, Subra still failed to get a spot in the national team.

The exclusion of one of the best centre-backs in the country raised eyebrows and fans went as far as to question national coach Datuk K. Rajagopal’s selection policy.

However, the humble Subra refuses to dwell on the past. He is grateful to be back in the national set-up again after being included in the 27-man squad for the friendlies against Saudi Arabia and the Philippines on Feb 24 and Feb 29 respectively.

“I’m just happy to be back in the national fold after having a successful season with Kelantan last year,” said Subra.

“I’m aware that a lot of people called for my selection following my display against Chelsea. I’m humbled and touched by their support.

“But we must keep in mind that the coach knows best. He (Rajagopal) has his own plans. It’s not a big deal because I obviously wasn’t in his plans back then.”

Singapore's artificial pitch worries Terengganu

The Turtles are on a good run in the Super League but coach Mat Zan Mat Aris fears it may come to an end when they play on Singapore’s artificial pitch tomorrow.

He said that only a handful of Harimau Muda and some national players in the team had played on astroturf.

“The faster my boys adapt to the artificial surface, the better our chances of beating Singapore,” he said yesterday.

“I have reminded them to expect drastic changes in the movement of the ball.”

Terengganu will again be banking on Liberian striker Francis Forkey Doe, who has been a revelation with his array of goals and skills.

“Forkey Doe has been great for us and we hope he can get the job done again on Saturday,” said Mat Zan.

“I will field a strong team. Ismail Faruqi and Joseph Kalang Tie will be in the starting line-up after sitting out the clash with T-Team last week.”

Forkey Doe scored both goals in the Turtles’ 2-1 win over T-Team last Saturday. It was their third victory in a row after losing their opening match 1-0 to Perak.

Mat Zan has warned his players to keep an eye on Lions’ captain Shahril Ishak and striker Agu Casmir.

“Skipper Mohd Marzuki Yusof and his defenders will have to be extra alert to thwart the threat posed by these two players,” he said.

“We want to maintain our good run of results and the match against Singapore will be no different.”

Ahmad Shakir determined to make the Olympic squad starting line-up

Negeri Sembilan prolific striker Ahmad Shakir Md. Ali, who has answered a call-up for the Asia's Olympic qualifying round, is determined to give his best shot in the selection for the starting line-up.

Having learned his lesson after being ousted from the Olympic squad, Ahmad Shakir, 23, said he realized that the squad needed a striker due to the absence of Izzaq Faris Ramlan and resolved to fill the void.

"I was dropped from the squad for I had failed to rise to the occasion before, but this time around I will use the opportunity to show my worth.

"I will give my best shot as I believe the two goals that I scored in the Super League recently may not be good enough for the starting line-up," he told Bernama after attending a training session along with 24 players at Wisma FAM, Kelana Jaya.

The lanky Izzaq Faris, 22, is recuperating from a knee surgery following an injury sustained during the Indonesian SEA Games in November last year and his absence had opened up opportunities for other strikers, including Ahmad Shakir to fill the void.

Ahmad Shakir, who was a former Harimau Muda A and Kedah player, was a pale shadow of himself when he played for the Olympic squad in an encounter against Pakistan on Feb 23 last year.

After being dropped from the Olympic squad and sat on the Kedah's substitute bench in last season's Super League, he made an astonishing comeback for Negeri Sembilan and scored both goals against Johor FC in their 2-0 win in the Super League on Jan 14.

Malaysia, who are facing an uphill battle after losing three matches in the Asian Zone's Olympics qualifying round, will have to make amend in the fourth match against Bahrain at the Manama National Stadium on Feb 5.

Kelantan to decide if Khairul Fahmi can join Olympic squad

Kelantan coach Peter James Butler said today he will leave it to the Kelantan FA to decide on whether to allow national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat to join the national Olympic squad.

The matter can only be answered by Kelantan FA president Tan Sri Annuar Musa, he said, adding that he could understand if Khairul Fahmi, or affectionately known as Apek, is called to the national squad.

"If he has to join the (national) team, I understand," he said when met a training session at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium, here.

He added however that Khairul Fahmi is also needed by the state team.

Khairul Fahmi also said that it would be up to the Kelantan FA to decide on the matter.

"I was supposed to attend the training with the Olympic squad yesterday. I would have to ask Kelantan FA about this," he said.

Brunei may return to Malaysian league in future

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has not rule out the possibility of inviting Brunei to participate in the Malaysia League again in an effort to strengthen ties between the two countries through sports.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and the Football Association of Brunei could create a mechanism towards Brunei's participation.

"Cooperation in sports not only involves government to government but also between sports associations of both countries," he told reporters after taking part in a golf friendly with Brunei Youth and Sports Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Datuk Seri Setia Awang Hazir Awang Abdullah at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club here.

Brunei played in the Malaysian League (then known as Semi-Pro League) from 1989-1993 before joining the Singapore League in 2009. Brunei last won the Malaysia Cup in 1999 after beating Sarawak 2-1 at the Merdeka Stadium.

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry would also invite Brunei to take in the Malaysia Games and the National Youth Day celebration.

Meanwhile, Awang Hazir said his visit would help strengthen ties between the two ministries after signing a memorandum of understanding in Brunei last year.

"We have identified several areas in youth and sports that could be developed and expanded to strengthen our ties," said Awang Hazir, who is at the head of a 15-member delegation, reciprocating a visit by Ahmad Shabery to Brunei last year.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Kenyan captain Pascal Ochieng set to join Johor FC

Super League club side Johor FC, languishing at the wrong end of the table with only one win in four matches, are close to signing their first foreign player - central defender Pascal Ochieng, captain of the Kenya national team.

The 27-year-old Ochieng is currently on trial with Johor FC while the search for an out-and-out striker is "bearing fruit" according to team manager Wan Nizam Wan Omar as the team try to get out of a rut.

With only three points from their 2-1 win over newcomers PKNS FC in their opening match, Johor FC are third from  bottom after defeats to Negri Sembilan (2-0), Kelantan (2-1) and Perak (1-0).

On Saturday, Johor FC visit winless Kedah in Alor Star and Wan Nizam hoped they would be able to check the slide, although no foreigner is likely to feature due to time constraints.

"Pascal has been on trial for a couple of days but he has done enough to impress us. The management will have a discussion with chief coach (K. Devan) before deciding on the player," said Wan Nizam.

"We have also negotiated with a proven striker and hope that the deal will come through. We hope to sign a defender and a striker before the window closes on Feb 14."  

Ochieng, a central defender, has been impressive during the trials. He is available because Kenya did not qualify for the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations Cup being played in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Wan Nizam, however, made it clear that Johor FC are in no rush to sign up Pascal just to meet the quota. Johor FC were left without a foreign player at the start of the new season when the FA of Malaysia (FAM) rejected both their players from Brazil.

The two - striker Tito Fernando and midfielder Tiago Lima Leal - both of whom had already signed one-year contracts with Johor FC - allegedly failed to adhere to Fifa's requirements for foreign players to play in the M-League.

Kuala Lumpur to take on loan unsettled foreign players from Kelantan

In dire need of that extra edge of quality, Kuala Lumpur have reached an agreement to take on loan Kelantan's two unused foreign players in the city side's bid to stave off relegation from the Super League.

After losing 15 players from last season's squad and dropping another three, KL were forced to scrounge around for players unwanted by other teams and the consequence is a three-match losing start to the season which was only halted with a 1-1 draw against PKNS last Saturday.

Realising that they cannot hope to improve without the services of imports, Kuala Lumpur FA president Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz reached an agreement with Kelantan FA president Tan Sri Annuar Musa recently for KL to take Lebanese striker Zakaria Charara and Ghanaian defender Emmanuel Okine on loan for the rest of the season.

Kelantan had initially wanted to use the pair for their AFC Cup campaign in addition to their two other imports -- Mohammed Ghaddar and Dennis Antwi -- but are now seeking two other foreign players for the continental tournament instead.

"The two FA presidents have met and agreed to have Charara and Okine join KL on loan for the rest of the season. All that needs to be sorted out is their documentation and registration which should be completed by next week at the latest," said KLFA general secretary Nokman Mustaffa yesterday.

Charara, 26, has scored twice in 13 appearance for Lebanon and won the Lebanese Premier League title with Nejmeh in 2009 while Okine is an imposing and raw 18-year-old defender highly rated by Kelantan coach Peter Butler.

As neither player has played an official game for Kelantan, they are eligible to turn out for bottom-side KL and coach Razip Ismail could have Charara and Okine join his squad by tomorrow though they will not be in the KL squad for Saturday's trip to Kelantan under the terms of the loan deal.

Their Super League debut could come in the home game against Kedah on Feb 8 at the Hang Jebat Stadium with Razip glad to have the extra bodies to call upon given injuries to his main strikers Badrul Hisyam Azmi and Stanley Bernard.

"They were supposed to come today (yesterday) so until I see them first-hand, I'm not sure what to think. But it will be good to have the players if they can help improve our results.

"I already have quite a few strikers, especially when Badrul and Stanley return so I might look to use Charara in an attacking midfield role," said Razip, who hopes to have Ahmad Dashila Tajudin back against Kelantan after the defender missed the PKNS game with a groin complaint.

Selangor looking to overcome poor record against T-Team

Selangor will have a statistical chain to break when they face T-Team in a Super League match at Sultan Nasiruddin Shah Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday.

The former champions were beaten four times, twice each in the league and Malaysia Cup, by the east coast side last season and coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim wants his players to forget about those defeats.

Fans are quickly losing patience with Selangor's pathetic display in the league, earning only five points from four matches.

Selangor are facing a problem with their strike force, led by captain Amri Yahyah.

The Selangor FA thought it had solved the problem by signing Lelo Mbele but the Congolese striker, who has failed to reach full fitness from an injury, is likely to be replaced this week.

"Selangor need a goal poacher but we are not expected to sign one before the match against T-Team, so our players need to sharpen up for this match," said Irfan yesterday.

"We are not quite where we want to be but to get there, we need to perform and start winning consistently. Our players are creating chances but we do not have a lethal striker who can finish them off."

Selangor's last success over T-Team was a 2-1 win in Kuala Terengganu in October 2010.

"Records are meant to be broken. T-Team are not invincible and Selangor have what it takes to beat them," added the coach.

"I have told my players to forget about the past and focus on the present. We are in a difficult situation and another unfavourable result will dent our hopes of doing well in the league."

Selangor began their campaign with a 2-2 draw against Negri Sembilan before edging Perak 1-0 but since then, have failed to make progress.

They suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to Felda United before sharing the spoils with Sarawak (0-0) at home last weekend.

Irfan also needs to look at options in beefing up his team's midfield, led by national captain Safiq Rahim and K. Gurusamy, which has failed to function properly so far.

The back line, led by Lebanese centre-back Ramez Dayoub, is, however, the team's strength.

FAM determined to get rid of corruption in football

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is ready to work with the police to find ways to rid the game of corruption and match-fixing.

He said the scourge would tarnish the sport’s credibility and Malaysia’s standing if not curbed.

“We will co-operate with the police to combat football bribery,” said Tengku Abdullah yesterday.

He was responding to FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad statement calling on the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to help tackle the problem.

“I don’t think salaries are the main reason for players accepting bribes because they are paid well,” he said, adding it was unfortunate that players continued to be involved in match-fixing despite repeated warnings.

Tengku Abdullah also wants the state FAs to be given the authority to hire, change or sack foreign players who fail to perform to expectations.

“It would be better to terminate their contracts and channel the money into nurturing our young players,” he said.

Johor FC keen to sign Kenyan defender

Johor FC are set to sign Kenya skipper Pascal Ochieng for their Super League campaign.

The 27-year-old central defender impressed during trials and team manager Wan Nizam Wan Omar said Ochieng could make his debut against Kedah at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar on Saturday.

Wan Nizam said they would not rush things as they had learnt their lesson after the FA of Malaysia (FAM) rejected both their proposed foreign signings – Tito Fernando and Tiago Lima Leal – at the start of the season.

Striker Fernando and midfielder Leal did not meet FIFA’s requirements to play in the MSL.

“It’s okay if we fail to get Ochieng registered in time for the match against Kedah. We will make do as the team have been playing relatively well despite the three defeats.

“The main drawback is our finishing. We have been creating chances but the forwards have been a letdown. It would have been different if only we had taken our chances,” said Wan Nizam, whose latest setback was a 1-0 home loss to Perak in Pasir Gudang on Saturday.

He said the team worked hard against Perak and could have been 3-0 up by half-time if not for the poor finishing of forwards Shahrizal Saad, Mohd Zamri Chin, Farid Ederis and Azi Shahril Azmi.

Johor FC are currently in 11th spot in the 14-team standings with only one win after four matches.

They opened their campaign with the 2-1 defeat of PKNS FC before losing to Negri Sembilan (0-2), Kelantan (1-2) and Perak (0-1).

Johor FA to be headed by Tunku Mahkota

Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim has taken over as president of the Johor FA.

Tunku Ismail, a keen polo and football player, announced via Twitter yesterday that he aimed to kick out the politics and bring back the glory days of Johor hockey.

He also urged the Johor government and State Sports Council to play an active role in promoting sports among the youth.

Tunku Ismail called on them to educate youths to excel through sports.

Tunku Ismail said he would provide further details at a press conference soon.

Former Johor FA president Md Jais Sarday said they welcomed Tunku Ismail’s decision to take over as president.

“Tunku Ismail cares about the team and has never failed to attend any of their games and training sessions,” he said yesterday.

The Johor football team won the Malaysia Cup in 1985 and the double in 1991.

Their fortunes have since spiralled downwards due to alleged match-fixing and bribery among players as well as financial constraints faced by the Johor FA.

Khairul Fahmi fails to attend Olympic squad training

National Under-23 skipper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat has gone AWOL on the very first day of training.

The Kelantan goalkeeper was the only absentee in the 25-player squad, who resumed training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday in preparation for the Olympic qualifier second-leg tie against Bahrain in Manama on Feb 5.

Coach Ong Kim Swee said he was surprised by Khairul’s absence.

“We announced the call-up for national training through the media and also sent official letters to all the state FAs,” said Kim Swee.

“There’s no reason for any player not to attend training. Khairul had better have a good reason.

“This is the first time a player has failed to turn up for training since I became the coach.

“I would like to hear what Khairul and the Kelantan FA have to say regarding his absence.”

The 25-player list for the final round of the Asian Zone Olympic qualifiers was released on Jan 18 and the final squad of 21 will be announced on Feb 1.

Malaysia need to beat Bahrain in a do-or-die match to re-ignite their faint playoff hopes in Group C, which also comprises leaders Japan and Syria.

Malaysia are bottom of the four-team group after three straight defeats.

Some of the players have been given clearance to attend training with their clubs for the Super League matches scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday.

Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq of PKNS has been allowed to join his club today and will rejoin national training on Saturday.

Khairul, Mohd Zubir Mohd Azmi, Mohd Muslim Ahmad, K. Gurusamy, Ahmad Shakir Ali and Ahmad Fakri Saarani will return to their respective teams at noon tomorrow before rejoining the national training on Sunday.

FAM to work with Police to overcome match-fixing problems in football

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said he will discuss with the police to finds ways to get rid of corruption and match-fixing in football.

He said the issue of corruption among football players would be given priority because the credibility of the sport and the image of Malaysian football would be tarnished if it was allowed to spread.

"I will not make any statement until I meet the police. We will boost effort to eradicate corruption because we do not want the image of Malaysian football to be tainted by just a handful of people.

"Although, it is going to be difficult to overcome, we will endeavour to do so for the sake of developing the sport to a higher level," he told reporters after visiting the families of two siblings who drowned at Pantai Sepat at Sungai Isap, near here, Wednesday.

Commenting further, Tengku Abdullah expressed regret the issue affected young players who had been reminded on the implication of corruption.

"We hope the police can give their views. If we need to stringently enforce the law, we will do so," he said, adding that salary was not a factor as the renumerations given were commensurate with performance.

Tengku Abdullah was commenting on the statement by FAM secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad who clarified that the issue of corruption was not FAM's main priority, calling on the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to eradicate the problem.

In the meantime, he wanted the football management in every state or clubs to have the power to appoint, change or sack, at any time, imported players who did not shine, to ensure team performance was not affected, and the investment made was not futile.

"There must be an understanding for both parties (team and imported players). If they don't perform, not disciplined and refuse to change the pattern of their games...don't waste time by waiting for a year before taking action.

"It is better if we invest the money to help our young players to further strengthen the quality of Malaysian football," he said.

Sports Minister wants problems during Felda United-Negeri Sembilan match investigated

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek today urged the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to investigate the fracas during the Felda United-Negeri Sembilan Super League match at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi on Saturday.

Shabery Cheek who was disappointed with the incident said such an incident should not have happened in the local league.

"We must take the best possible action to ensure similar incidents did not take place in the future," he told reporters here after accompanying Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein who visited a Simulation Shooting System Centre at the Bukit Kiara Rakan Muda Complex here.

During the incident, referee Azman Jamaludin gave the marching orders to S. Kunalan from Negeri Sembilan and Farid Ramli, Mohd Hardi Jaafar from Felda United, for their involvement in a fracas.

Negeri Sembilan won the match 1-0 through Shahurain Abu Samah's solitary goal in the 53rd minute.

Shabery Cheek said such an incident would not have happened if the players and team management of both teams had behaved professionally and not just follow their emotions.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Negri Sembilan striker Ahmad Shakir called up for Olympic squad

Ahmad Shakir Ali's excellent form with Super League side Negri Sembilan has earned him a call-up to the 25-member national Olympic training squad.

The 23-year-old last played for the team a year ago, and the striker is hoping to impress coach Ong Kim Swee for a spot in the final squad bound for Manama to face Bahrain in the Asian Zone Olympic Qualifiers on Feb 5.

"Ahmad Shakir has rediscovered his scoring form and it is only right for me to give him a chance," said Kim Swee.

Kim Swee will have more depth and options in his squad with the return of midfielder Gary Steven Robbart, along with Irfan Fazail and Syahrul Azwari from injuries.

The Olympic team need to beat Bahrain in a do-or-die match to re-ignite their playoff ambitions in Group C, which also comprise leaders Japan and Syria.

Kim Swee's squad have suffered three straight defeats in the qualifiers.

"It is still not impossible to make at least the playoff but we need to beat Bahrain first to have that chance.

"We need to be focused and determined in this match. I will prepare my players the best way I can," said Kim Swee, himself a former international.

Kim Swee will evaluate the form of his players in training, which begins today, before naming the final squad who depart on Feb 1.

The training squad comprise 16 members of the Young Tigers team, who will debut in next month's S-League, while seven others -- Zubir Mohd Azmi, Muslim Ahmad (Terengganu), Azrif Nasrulhaq (PKNS), Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan), K. Gurusamy (Selangor), Ahmad Fakri Saraani (Felda United) and Ahmad Shakir --  are from M-League teams.

On the Tigers' participation in the S-League, Kim Swee said the Singapore FA (FAS) has accommodated the national Under-23 team's international commitments.

"The S-League starts on Feb 9 but we will only begin our campaign two or three days later due to our match against Bahrain," said the coach.

"We are also not competing in the Singapore Cup in June as we will be busy with the AFC Under-22 Qualifiers."

The 3,400 capacity Yishun Stadium is the Tigers' home venue for the S-League.

The squad: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Zubir Mohd Azmi, Muslim Ahmad, K. Gurusamy, Ahmad Shakir Ali, Gary Steven Robbat, Mohd Affize Faisal, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor, Muhd Syazwan Tajuddin, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, Mahalli Jasuli, Amer Saidin, Fandi Othman, Irfan Fazail, Mohd Izham Tarmizi, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, Mohd Shahril Bin Sa'ari, Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria, Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Izuan Mohd Salahuddin, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Mohd Azizan Nordin, Wan Ahmad Amirzafran Wan Madris, Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq

Terengganu fans delighted with in-form Liberian striker Francis Doe

It did not take long for Liberian centre-forward Francis Doe to win the hearts of Terengganu fans.

Just hours after arriving in Kuala Terengganu for trials late last month, the 27-year-old former DC United and Ah-Ahly striker scored three goals in Terengganu's 6-0 win over Perlis in a friendly match.

Coach Mat Zan Mat Aris and the Terengganu supporters had high hopes for the Liberian national when he signed on Jan 4 but was ruled ineligible to play in the Super League by the FA of Malaysia (FAM).

Doe and the other foreign signing Erison Da Silva Santos Carnietto, otherwise known as 'Baiano', from Bazil, had to miss the first two league matches before FAM gave them the greenlight to play. 

Without the duo, Terengganu were beaten 1-0 away to Perak on the opening day before the they bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win over Felda United FC at home four days later.

A late all-clear came for Doe and Biano 24 hours before the away match to Sarawak on Tuesday and they were on the first plane to Kuching on match day, arriving a few hours before the kick off.

But that did not stop Doe from becoming an instant hero by scoring the winning goal in the visitors' 1-0 win although he was unlucky to pick up an ankle injury just before the match ended.

Initially on Saturday, Mat Zan had ruled him unfit to play in the Kuala Terengganu derby against T-Team but knowing that a capacity crowd had come to watch him play, Doe decided to ignore the swollen ankle and had a go at it.

He was rewarded with a brace, one from the penalty spot and the other from a solo effort when he collected a pass from Ashaari Shamsuddin, danced his way past goalkeeper Iqbal Suhimi and cooly slotted in Terengganu's winning goal.

Mat Zan who was full of praise for Doe after the match, said the player had exceeded all expectations managing to score three goals in two matches.

"With him around, our team are stronger and I have no doubt he will get even better.

"I am glad we do not have a mid-week match as Doe can use this little break to recover from his injury and, hopefully, he will be fit again when we travel to Singapore to take on LionsXII on  Saturday," he said.

The coach said, with Doe and Biano adapting well, Terengganu now have the much needed depth to go the distance in the league.

"Against T-Team, we had national players Joseph (Kallang Tie), Ismail (Faruqi), Faizal (Muhamad), Hadi (Yahya) and Shukor (Jusoh) on the bench. And that says a lot about the strength of our team this season," he said.

Singapore coach happy with team's progress

Coach V. Sundramoorthy has admitted that the task of putting the "feel-good factor" back into the LionsXXI team remains an on-going process.

The young Lions have grown in confidence in the Super League and have followed up their 2-1 home defeat to Kelantan in their opening match with victories over Kuala Lumpur (2-1) and Sabah (1-0) and draw against Kedah (0-0).

Sundramoorthy is delighted with the progress his players have made, but warned his charges that they have achieved nothing yet.

"We can't get carried away as this is only the beginning. We still have a long way to go," said Sundramoorthy.

"There has to be more to come from us. We have to be consistent. You really are only as good as your last game and you have to keep improving.

"Our strengths are our teamwork and discipline and we have to bank on that."

The Lions are hoping to build on their form for Saturday's crucial match when they visit Terengganu. They are determined to earn a favourable result after notching their first away victory in Sabah last weekend.

"I hope the away win will be a turning point for us. It is very tough for a young team to come to Sabah and win but the boys were tactically disciplined and turned in a great defensive performance," said the coach.

The team stood tall, despite having to play with 10 men for nearly an hour in Kota Kinabalu.

Irwan Shah received his marching orders, along with Sabah's  Mafry Balang, for retaliating to a punch thrown by the latter, but the visitors allowed little to get in their way of a famous away win.

"The entire team played their hearts out, gave 110 per cent and did the job," added Sundramoorthy.

"This was a great match for the younger boys to experience and they showed that they've grown up.  We proved that we can play, this is what we want and I hope this will continue."

Olympic squad coach wants better performance in remaining qualifiers

Malaysian Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee wants redemption even if the Olympic qualifers, which resume next month, seem like a lost cause.

Malaysia, who are winless and at the bottom of the four-team group, have only the slimmest of chances to make the cut, but Kim Swee wants his men to make a mark in the remaining three fixtures, beginning with Bahrain in Manama on Feb 5.

“All is not lost … yet. We will give it our best shot and see what happens,” said Kim Swee, whose boys will resume training at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya today.

A total of 25 players have been named, the majority of them from the 2011 Jakarta SEA Games gold medal-winning squad.

Kim Swee has also recalled Harimau Muda A midfielder Gary Steven Robbat, who was left out from the SEA Games squad due to a knee injury.

“I will give Gary every chance to regain his place in the team. It will be tough, but he will have to work his way back,” said Kim Swee.

Mohd Nazmi Faiz Mansor, 18, who was a last-minute call-up for the SEA Games following injuries to Gary and Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, is also in the squad.

Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim and Mohd Irfan Fazail, who picked up injuries in Jakarta, also return but lanky Izzaq Faris Ramlan, who is recuperating after a knee surgery, is a notable absentee.

Malaysia have lost all three first leg matches in the third and final round of the Olympic qualifiers — going down 2-0 to Japan and Syria and 3-2 to Bahrain.

Only 3.5 slots are available to Asia for the London Games. The three group winners advance automatically while the three runners-up will play another round of matches. The winners will then face a play-off against another qualifier from Africa.

Malaysia’s remaining matches are against Syria at the Prince Mohammed Stadium on Feb 22 and Japan at the National Stadium on March 14.

The Harimau Muda A squad, under Kim Swee, will play in the Singapore League (S-League) scheduled to start on Feb 9.

T-Team coach unhappy with the poor form of Zambian striker

Terengganu outfit, T-Team coach Yunus Alif, has lost patience with the below par performance and lack of professionalism of his Zambian import Zacharia Simukonda.

Yunus said Simukonda would be given a chance in a number of games to pull up his socks or face drastic action for his lacklustre performance since the start of the season.

"His performance has been disappointing to say the least. He has not performed up to expectations of the T-Team or the fans," he said.

Yunus said T-Team had placed high hopes on the striker but had failed to find the target regularly and has only scored once in four Super League appearances.

Yunus said Simukonda need to buck up and give an energetic performance, especially on Saturday when T-Team face Selangor at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium here.

T-Team who welcome back skipper Rosdi Talib who was rested in the last match due to a bout of fever, have slipped from the top to fourth spot with seven points from four matches.

Malacca stadium get approval to have night matches

Night football matches could be held at the Hang Jebat Stadium, Melaka after it meets the minimum lighting standard set by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

This makes the stadium the last to meet the condition so that all Super League matches could be held at night in the 2012 Malaysia League competition which was entering its third week.

According to a statement by FAM, the flood lights at the stadium were tested on Jan 22 and were found to have exceeded the minimum lighting level of 800 lux as stipulated for night matches by FAM.

The Hang Jebat Stadium was also temporarily host to two Super League teams this season, Kuala Lumpur and Felda United as their home ground Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium was under repair.

Felda United will kick off the first match at night at the stadium against Perak from 8.45pm this Saturday (Jan 28).

Monday, 23 January 2012

Perak in confident mood after win over Johor FC

Perak are riding high after a narrow 1-0 win over Johor FC at the Pasir Gudang Stadium on Saturday and are now third in the table on goal difference with nine points to keep pace with leaders Kelantan (10) and second placed Terengganu.

Coach Norizan Bakar, while pleased with the three points  as teams jostle for the top places in the 14-team league, wants his players to raise their game if they are to pose a threat to their rivals.

“Right now the three points please me. It will come in handy while we struggle to get the team organised. There are several shortcomings that need to be ironed-out,” said Norizan after Saturday’s match in which Shahrom Abdul Kalam scored the winner in the 77th minute.

Johor FC’s ball-watching defenders allowed Michal Kubala to find enough space to send a through ball for Shahrom to drill home a grounder into the right corner.

“No doubt we have won three matches and lost one ... but there are lot of loopholes that need to be plugged.

“I won’t reveal the shortcomings but it will be thrashed out between the players and me. I have players who can carry our challenge.

“All we need is some polishing and get the experience along the way.”

Perak’s next match is on Saturday when they travel to play unpredictable Felda United, who fell to Malaysia Cup champions Negri Sembilan 1-0 in Paroi after pulling off an upset against mighty Selangor by a similar score in a mid-week match.

Meanwhile, Johor FC’s blunt forwards paid a heavy price for the defeat. It was a match the hosts could have easily won after controlling the first half.    Former Perak striker Shahrizal Saad, Haris Safwan, Azi Shahril Azmi and Zamir Chin all muffed chances with only Perak goalkeeper Nasril Nourdin to beat.

“We need to act fast and get a foreign striker before our next match against Kedah away on Saturday,” said team manager Wan Nizam Wan Omar.

Johor FC are in the midst of short-listing several names from France, Mali, Cameroon and Ghana.

The defeat to Perak was Johor FC’s third in a row, having lost to Negri Sembilan (2-0) and Kelantan (2-1). Their only win was against newcomers PKNS FC (2-1) in their opening match.

Selangor frustrated by with Sarawak's defensive tactics

Selangor coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim insisted he could not understand Sarawak’s negative tactics following the scoreless draw in a Super League match in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.

“Sarawak came here to play for a draw. They defended and only depended on counter-attacks.

They treated the match like it was a final,” said a furious Irfan.

“Somehow I knew before the match that they were going to defend for  the whole match and I  was right. They had no imagination.

“Anyway, I am also angry with my players for wasting chances. We should have won easily.”

Selangor played a 4-5-1 formation with captain Amri Yahyah as the sole striker supported by flankers Fitri Shazwan Raduwan and Amirulhadi Zainal along with midfielders Safiq Rahim, K. Gurusamy and Bunyamin Umar.

Sarawak coach Robert Alberts opted for an all-local line-up leaving Cameroon-born defensive midfielder Guy Bwele on the bench.

The hosts  dominated proceedings after half-an-hour and created at least 10 goal-scoring opportunities but none of their players could put one past Sarawak goalkeeper Sani Anuar Kamsani.

Sarawak had decent chances but Selangor’s backline, led by Lebanese international Ramez Jamal Dayoub, did well to deny them.

“We need a quality goal poacher. Foreign strikers will be on trial and, hopefully, one of them will be good enough for a contract,” added Irfan.

Alberts, meanwhile, defended his team’s tactics.

“Irfan can say whatever he wants. We came here for a good result and we managed one,” said Alberts.

“A team do not need to play beautiful football to earn desired results. Yes, I told my boys to play cautiously and that is what they did. We had to play defensively as we were up against a good team. Their hard work paid off.”

Sarawak are on the lookout for a striker to beef up their attack. Cameroon striker Kalle Sone, who they signed for the season is injured.

Alberts said several players were due to arrive in Kuching for trials.

Negeri Sembilan-Felda United match marred by 3 red cards

Threee red cards marred Negeri Sembilan’s 1-0 win over Felda United in a Super League match at Paroi on Saturday which also saw a players altercation with fans.

Felda’s Hardi Jaafar and Hamsani Ahmad both had to be restrained by security personnel after being provoked by Negeri fans while Negeri’s S. Kunanlan and Felda’s Farid Ramli were both sent off just before half-time after an incident which nearly led to a free-for-all.

Hardi was also shown the red card after the final whistle after reacting to Jean-Emmanuel Owona’s alleged spitting at him in a match which also saw eight yellow cards flashed.

Referee Azman Jamaluddin’s match report should make for interesting reading and it remains to be seen whether the FA of Malaysia (FAM) will take action against both teams for failing to control their players.

Felda coach E. Ellavarasan said emotions got out of control as both teams went blow-for-blow to win the match.

“It was a high-tension match. Both sides were giving it their best and trying to stop each other from scoring. It was a good game. that’s why it was so tense,” said Ellavarasan, who declined to comment on the referee’s performance.

In a match always simmering on the edge, left-back Farid and winger Kunanlan came to blows after the former’s tackle on the latter in first-half stoppage time leading to Azman to sending them off.

Shahurain Abu Samah’s 53rd minute goal was all that separated the two teams but matters got out of hand after the game ended.

Hardi was sent off for reacting to Owona’s alleged spitting at him while goalkeeper Hamsani, who had been taunted throughout the game, had a bottle thrown at him while walking off the pitch.

When he approached the grandstand heading to the dressing room, a spectator reached out to take a swing at Hamsani while an unidentified Felda  player was seen in television images wading into the grandstand to confront the errant fan.

The incredible scenes left a dark mark on the game and Felda had to be given a police escort when leaving the stadium.

Fans turning unruly is no longer an isolated occurrence in Malaysian football with bottle-throwing becoming endemic in football culture.

FAM has previously resorted to handing out stiff fines to teams for lack of security but will now have to consider more stringent punishment, including playing to empty stadiums, to get the message across.

Liberian striker Forkey Doe delights Terengganu

Forkey Doe – that’s the name on everyone’s lips in Terengganu.

Liberian striker Francis Forkey Doe scored a brace to inspire Terengganu to a 2-1 comeback win in the local derby against 10-man T-Team at the Sultan Ismail Stadium on Saturday night.

Doe dazzled the crowd with his dribbling skills and trickery to run the T-Team defence ragged.

While most were surprised, Turtles coach Mat Zan Mat Aris said he always knew the striker would be a hit with the fans.

“He has adapted well and is playing fantastic football,” said Mat Zan.

“His positioning and work rate are outstanding. The scary thing for our opponents is that he can, and will, only get better.”

Mat Zan rested key players Joseph Kalang Tie and Ismail Faruqi on Saturday, while last season’s Golden Boot winner Abdul Hadi Yahya only came on late in the second half.

The coach admitted that his team were lucky to escape with all three points as “T-Team kept pushing forward despite being down to 10 men”.

“My boys showed resilience and determination in the face of the onslaught,” he said.

“We could have won by a bigger margin if not for some wasted chances.

“This is something we have to work on as the league crown might be decided on goal difference.”

Mat Zan also had special praise for winger Shamsul Kamal Mohd for his “fantastic” work down the flank.

“His performance should inspire the other players to improve on their work rate,” said Mat Zan.

“Our strikers, Abdul Manaf Mamat and Abdul Hadi Yahya, have not hit the ground running this season. I hope they find their form soon.

“We have a lot to improve on but I hope we can continue our winning streak when we play Singapore on Saturday.”

While Doe became a crowd favourite, T-Team’s Zachariah Simukonda continued to fluff his lines despite some promising chances in the first half.

T-Team coach Yunus Alif felt the Zambian striker could have made an impact if they had not been handicapped by the early expulsion of Shahril Faisal.

“We had to adjust our formation after Shahril was red-carded in the 19th minute, forcing Simukonda to be the lone striker,” said Yunus.

“Still, he did well as he came close to scoring a few times. Don’t forget we got the penalty because he was fouled in the box.

“Despite losing to a better team, I can take heart from the fact that the players, especially Simukonda, showed true grit and did not give up.

“This is the kind of effort and determination that will carry us through the season.”

T-Team take on Selangor next at the Sultan Ismail Stadium on Saturday.

Kelantan striker Indra Putra cautious over team's early form

The east coast teams are dominating the early proceedings in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

Kelantan lead the pack with 10 points, one ahead of Terengganu and Perak, after four matches.

But Red Warriors stalwart Indra Putra Mahayuddin warned it was early days yet and they could take scant comfort because other teams were on the rise.

“All of us are still trying to find our rhythm and the task is made harder this time because of the foreign players. Even Kelantan are not having it easy because of the changes. It will take time before the players forge an understanding and start playing as a team,” said Indra.

Kelantan’s imports, both forwards, are Lebanese Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud and Dennis Antwi from Ghana. Both are slowly making their presence felt with Mohd Ghaddar having scored twice and Antwi once.

Terengganu’s Liberian striker Francis Forkey Doe has been in impressive form with three goals, including a brace in the Turtles’ 2-1 win over T-Team on Saturday. Perak’s resurgence is due to new signing Michal Kubala from Slovakia while Negri Sembilan’s Cameroon hitman Jean Emmanuel Effa Owona has been instrumental in the Deer’s strong showing with four goals.

Indra said besides the domestic competition, their focus would also be on the AFC Cup in March. Kelantan are drawn in Group H with Ayeyawady United of Myanmar, Arema Indonesia and Navibank Saigon.

“Hopefully, we will be able to settle down before the AFC Cup. It’s time we looked at bigger goals rather than just doing well in domestic competitions,” said Indra, who has a full set of winner’s medals in the M-League.

Terengganu are the other Malaysian representative in the AFC Cup. The Turtles are in Group F with Kitchee FC (HK), Song Lam Nghe An (Vie) and Tampines Rovers (Sin).

Negri Sembilan and Felda United are in trouble for ugly scenes

Negri Sembilan and Felda United are in hot water for the free-for-all after their Super League match at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi on Saturday.

Nine-man Negri won 1-0 but the ill-tempered match saw two red cards flashed during the game and a third after the final whistle. Shahurain Abu Samah scored the winner in the 57th minute but the talking point was the fracas which has gone viral on YouTube.

During the match, referee Azman Jamaludin flashed eight yellow cards (four per team) and red-carded Negri Sembilan’s Farid Ramli (first half added time) and S. Kunalan (61st minute) as well as Felda’s Hardi Jaafar after the final whistle.

The match also saw Felda striker Yong Kuong Yong rushed to hospital after clashing with Negri goalkeeper Badrulzaman Abdul Halim. The former Kuala Lumpur player is reported to have fractured his ribs.

It was an ugly scene as the players clashed after the match and the Negri supporters jeered and threw water bottles at the Felda players as they headed to the changing room.

One bottle hit Felda goalkeeper Mohd Hamsani Ahmad’s face, prompting some of the players to climb into the grandstand to confront the fans.

Felda United assistant manager Faisal Zakariah said he would lodge an official complaint on the referee’s handling of the match.

“We are not happy with the referee as he clearly failed to take control of the game,” said Faizal.

“We will also report that our player was struck by a water bottle thrown by the fans. Our supporters tried to nab the person responsible but they were caught by the police.

“Our players actually climbed the fence to apprehend the culprit but it made the situation worse.”

Negri coach Azraai Khor Abdullah declined to comment on the refereeing, only saying his side had played well.

“What happened after the match is bad for the country’s image. Let FAM decide on the next course of action.” said Azraai.

“The team did better with Shukor Adan orchestrating play in midfield. We created a lot of chances but were denied by Hamsani.”

Azraai said he did not expect international Kunalan to react to the provocation and get sent off.

“I have told the players to stay cool at all times. It was certainly a surprise to see Kunalan, of all people, being expelled.”

No extended Chinese New Year break for Perak squad

There is no rest for the wicked or the ambitious and Perak coach Norizan Bakar clearly subscribes to that.

His team edged Johor FC 1-0 in an away Super League match on Saturday, but they have been, with the exception of Chan Wing Hoong, ordered to turn up for training today.

If his players had been hoping for an extended break due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, and the fact that they are joint second in the standings with Terengganu, then they were disappointed.

Norizan knows that it is too early in the season to get carried away and is clearly not impressed that his team are just one point behind leaders Kelantan, who top the table with 10 points after four matches.

His mind is already on their next game – away to Felda United at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca on Jan 28.

“There can be no let-up in our training if we are to maintain our momentum and stay among the frontrunners,” he said.

“Anyway, we only have one Chinese player so it’s not a big problem for the rest to get back to the grind.

“We still need to iron out the flaws in our game.”

Norizan was glad that his men managed to overcome Johor FC for their first away win. Perak began the season with a 1-0 home victory over Terengganu before going down to Selangor 1-0 at the Shah Alam Stadium. They bounced back to beat Negri 2-1 at home in their third outing.

“We went to Johor bent on collecting all three points,” Norizan said.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we pulled it off because we were determined, disciplined and hardworking.”

All that means is more toil on the training pitch for the players.