Saturday, 29 October 2016

If the coaches in the M-League are to be believed, then Kedah should be crowned Malaysia Cup champions as 10 Pick them 8 Pick Selangor

Malaysia Cup final: A battle too close to call

Selangor coach K. Gunalan (left) and Kedah counterpart Tan Cheng Hoe during the press conference ahead of the Malaysia Cup final at Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday. - Bernama

PETALING JAYA: If the coaches in the M-League are to be believed, then Kedah should be crowned Malaysia Cup champions for the fifth time.

As things stand, 10 coaches have picked the Red Eagles to win Sunday’s Malaysia Cup final against record 33-time winners Selangor at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Eight coaches have chosen the Red Giants to repeat last year’s feat – when they beat Kedah 2-0 in the final at the same venue.

If this Cup final had been held a few months earlier, then perhaps the 10 coaches would have a valid point.


After all, Selangor were in turmoil then and that led to the sacking of coach Zainal Abidin Hassan in August.

He was replaced by K. Gunalan, who has since steadied the ship.

Gunalan has described his team’s dramatic fightback to turn their season around as bearing “the true hallmark of champions”.

“I don’t deny that we have an experienced set of players. We have many who played in last year’s final.

“Yes, we had our ups and downs in the league ... but that’s in the past.

“We’re back on the right track and we have a good shot at winning the Cup again,” said Gunalan.

Still, the smart money is on the Red Eagles to lift the prestigious Cup, which they last won in 2008 – beating Selangor 3-2 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

If there is one factor that may favour Selangor, then it has to be the venue – the Shah Alam Stadium, which is the Red Giants’ home ground.

Selangor have won four Malaysia Cup finals here – against Pahang twice in 1995 and 1997; Sabah in 1996; and Kedah last year.

Unfortunately, Cup finals have a tendency to throw the form book out of the window.

Both teams are of equal strength and both have their own “match winners”.

Selangor have the unpredictable Patrick Wleh leading their attack. Although the Liberian has netted 19 goals so far this season, he hasn’t scored for almost three months.

He has promised to come good in the final.

If he doesn’t, then the Selangor fans will be praying and hoping that Ahmad Hazwan Bakri will stand up and deliver – like he did when he scored a brace in last year’s final.

One department Selangor can expect to control is the midfield as they will have skipper Andik Vermansyah and the energetic S. Veenod in attendance.

So, does that mean Selangor hold the upper hand?

Don’t bet on it.

Not when the Red Eagles have revenge on their minds, although their coach Tan Cheng Hoe refuses to admit it.

“As for me, this is a repeat final. I don’t believe in taking revenge ... the better team in the final usually win,” said Cheng Hoe, who looked a little concerned over the fitness of skipper and defensive stalwart Khairul Helmi Johari.

If there’s one man who could swing the tie in Kedah’s favour this time, it has to be former New Zealand World Cup striker Shane Smeltz.

The 34-year-old Kiwi, who jetted in during the second transfer window in July, played for former A-League side Sydney United and has notched 10 goals in 10 matches for Kedah so far.

This is one final that’s too tough to call.

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