2004 and 2006 champions kick off their 2014 FA Cup campaigns with a need for improvements
Jalal - Zesh - Damion - Shahrizan
Alex - Azidan - Faizol - Gopi
Conti - Azamuddin
After the 2014 season kicked off last weekend, this Tuesday professional Malaysian teams turn their attention on the start of the 2014 FA Cup. The competition, which awards the champions an automatic berth to the 2015 AFC Cup, starts comparetively early this year as compared to the previous edition, which was won by Kelantan. One fixture on Tuesday night sees 2004 FA Cup champions Perak take on last year's Malaysia Cup champions, Pahang at the Ipoh Stadium.
Much has been said about the Seladang's 2013 season end upheaval, thus although much attention on their last game, against JDT, was directed to their star-studded opponents, keener fans and observers were also keeping a note on how well Perak were playing with a new set of players and head coach. One of their top signings; Myanmar's Kyaw Zayar Win failed to give his best against the likes of Pablo Aimar and he was taken off midway through the second half against the Southern Tigers, and he is expected to be dropped to the bench to give way to another foreigner; striker Eliel da Cruz Guardiano in this encounter, who will then pair up with Bosnian forward Želimir Terkeš up front.
However, another new signing; their former player and former Malaysia international Hardi Jaafar played against JDT as if he had not been away from his home state team at all, leading the charge against the occassionally shaky JDT defence. Although he too was taken off in the second half, his confident performance hinted at the idea that the substitution was a tactical one, to rest him in preparation for Tuesday's fixture.
But it must be said that as a whole, Perak did not play well against JDT. They were constantly overwhelmed in the second and final third of the pitch, which meant that they could not send the ball to the front, although in the first fifteen minutes they did have a somewhat fair share of possession and chances. Head coach Abu Bakar Fadzim must make sure that against Pahang, his men do not get overwhelmed, so that his forwards get to make attempts.
Meanwhile Tuesday's visitors kicked off their 2014 campaign last Friday with a 1-0 win over 2013 MSL champions LionsXII, a confidence-boosting result going into the Perak match. They looked the superior side against the Singaporeans, creating attack after attack, but they just lacked the finishing to extend their lead in the match. Perak defended relatively well against JDT, so Pahang need to be more clinical in their finishing. New signing; Dickson Nwakaeme's debut for his new team lasted only 15 minutes due to an injury, so Tuesday's goal scoring duties will most likely be shouldered again by Azamuddin Akil and Nwakaeme's replacement and Pahang's eventual scorer on Friday; 25-year old Matias Conte.
It seems that Pahang's performance last weekend was the reverse of Perak's, as Perak defended well but attacked very rarely, Pahang attacked liberally but were porous in defence. Despite the addition of a foreign centreback; former QPR player Zeshan Rahman, as a defensive partner of one of the Tok Gajah last season's best performers; Damion Stewart, the defence was shaky and was penetrated often by their more youthful opponents, especially from the wings. It is this aspect that must be worked on by their new head coach; Ron Smith if they are to not just stop Perak forwards on Tuesday, but also to do better in the league this season. In the 2013 MSL, they had the best goalscoring records in the league; 36, but the fact that they also conceded 32, eventually left them at the fifth spot. The 2013 season might have been a more succesful one for them had they defended better.
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