Armed Forces will come out with guns blazing against two-time champions Perak in tonight’s FA Cup first round match at the Perak Stadium.
Former national coach B. Sathianathan’s men are the talk of the town with their high-powered artillery and many expect the Premier League side to shoot down Super League team Perak.
The expensively assembled Armed Forces side currently top the Premier League standings with 18 points from six wins and a defeat. The soldiers are in top form and have been going great guns.
Their sharpshooter is last year’s Negri Sembilan Malaysia Cup hero Hairuddin Omar. He scored the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Kelantan in the final. So far, he has netted eight goals in seven matches. The former national striker is on a hot streak having scored back-to-back hat-tricks in the last two matches against Johor (4-0) and Perlis (4-1) in the Premier League.
But Sathianathan was quick to point out that his men are in for a tough time against a Perak side who are currently second in the 14-team Super League standings.
“We are not just facing a Super League team but a top rated side,” warned Sathianathan yesterday.
Perak, who are behind leaders Kelantan, lost their last game against the Lions XII in Ipoh on Tuesday.
“The Lions XII won the game (2-1) but Perak were the better side. It is going to be an acid test for my players because it is a knock-out do-or-die match,” said Sathianathan.
Besides Hairuddin, the other Armed Forces players to watch out for are Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak and St Vincent and Grenadines’ Marlon James. However, Marlon has been ruled out from the FA Cup clash as he is nursing a calf injury but their attacking midfielder Bruno Marteletto from Argentina can wreck havoc as well.
“We don’t want to rush Marlon and risk aggravating his injury. But the fact remains we have a tough match. This is the moment everyone is waiting for – to see how our star-studded team perform this season. And being a knock-out match and playing in Ipoh – the home team have the advantage,” said Sathianathan.
The other stars in the Forces side include national players Mohd Aidil Zafuan, Mohd Farizal Harun, Azmi Muslim and K. Reuben. They also have former internationals Rezal Zambery Yahaya, Irwan Fadli Idrus and two exciting flankers in Christie Jayaseelan (PKNS FC) and Mohd Fitri Omar (Muar MC).
A total of 32 teams will be competing in the 23rd edition of the competition with defending champions Terengganu drawn against Police in the first round at the Sultan Ismail Stadium in Kuala Terengganu tomorrow.
The opening two rounds will be played over one-leg with the quarter-finals and semi-finals played over two legs.