The top two teams in the Malaysia Super League are set to go head to head in what could be an early title decider
BY MARK DAWSON
Miswan - Stewart - Salleh – Roslan
Gopinathan - Kamal – Azidan – Surendran
Nwakaeme - Conti
Bunyamin (c) - Pantelidis - Rizal - Azmi
Fitri - Guru - Shukor - Andik
The top of the table clash between current league leaders Pahang, and second place team Selangor, promises to be a fascinating affair. This season Pahang have been irresistible at the Darul Makmur stadium, winning all seven of their home games so far in this Malaysia Super League campaign scoring 19 in the process. However they will not be taking visitors Selangor lightly, the Red Giants themselves have the best away record in the division and will be confident that they can get something from the game.
Furthermore this match pits the best attack versus the best defence. Pahang, led by the prolific Matias Conti, have 27 goals so far in the MSL, six more than any other team. The Argentine, and strike partner Dickson Nwakaeme, will have their work cut out for them going against a stingy Selangor who have shipped only 11 goals in 14 games.
The Elephants come into the game off a hard fought draw at Johor Darul Ta’zim in the FA Cup semi-final first leg at Larkin Stadium on Monday. Although many of the headlines focused on the unruly fan behavior following the match, it was a disciplined and professional Pahang performance, who showed their toughness to capture a draw despite being on the back-foot for long periods of the match.
It remains to be seen whether Pahang's squad can keep going strong in two different competitions, with coach Zainal Abidin Hassan highlighting how vital the coming fixtures will be in shaping their season. He commented, “This is a crucial month for Pahang. I think the next three matches will determine the league champions. Right now, it is still tight at the top with three other teams within striking distance of the title,”
The Red Giants also come into the game on the back of a draw, with a 0-0 draw with Terengganu last Sunday enough to put them level on points with Pahang. Despite the game being an opportunity to pull clear at the top of the table, the Red Giants failed to create many clear cut chances as their attack was blunted.
Following the game Selangor's head coach Mehmet Durakovic lamented their poor finishing and their inability "to penetrate Terengganu's solid defence." With the call to score more goals, it will be interesting to see if new signing Nazmi Faiz is inserted into the starting 11, to give some further creativity alongside Indonesian winger Andik Vermansyah, especially with Thamil Arasu being ineffective last time out.
This season the Red Giants have hardly been prolific in the MSL, only scoring as many goals as 11th place ATM, so it will be intriguing to see if Australian coach Durakovic makes the decision to name an attacking line-up in such a key game. A draw will not be the best result for either team, with JDT lurking dangerously in third place.