Key Battles: JDT vs Kelantan

Recently-crowned Super League champions JDT host 2012 Malaysia Cup winners Kelantan at the Larkin Stadium in their opening Group D match. Goal look at the key battles

GOALBY    DARREN GOON     Follow on Twitter


Malaysia’s back four against Tajikistan was comprised of JDT players, and after their delayed return home on Sunday night, Bojan Hodak would not have had much time to train with them before this match. As such, Marcos Antonio will be the freshest defender of the bunch, and he will in top shape to handle Kelantan’s strikers.

The Red Warriors’ attack has been blunted by injuries to foreign forwards Francis Forkey Doe and Prince Tagoe, leaving them less than 100% match-fit. Without them, coach Boateng has relied upon local strikers, such as Ahmad Shakir Ali. Known for his imposing build and physical strength, Shakir also appears to be a cup specialist. He failed to score in the Super League this season, but netted four goals as Kelantan reached the FA Cup semi-finals. Can he do it against the Super League champions?



Without Jorge Diaz, Nazrin Nawi is expected to start for JDT in this battle of the left-wingers. The Kelantanese winger has been in some inspired form during the break, notching several assists while scoring in JDT’s last friendly win against S-League side Tampines Rovers. While not at Diaz’s level, Nazrin’s abundant pace and trickery with the ball should cause Kelantan’s right-back plenty of problems.

On the opposing flank, Fitri Omar could cover the entire length of the pitch. Adept at playing as a left-back or a left-winger, Kelantan’s April signing from ATM has also put in some sparkling performances. His crosses from the left were turned in by Ahmad Shakir Ali and Khairul Izuan Rosli in recent friendlies, and he also headed in the winner against Terengganu. If Mahali Jasuli starts at right-back for JDT, Fitri could enjoy plenty of space to motor into.



JDT will not be able to call upon their Argentinian attacking partnership this time, after Jorge Diaz returned home last Wednesday to tend to his ailing father. However, Luciano Figueroa has proved to be a reliable forward, netting 11 goals in the league and two more in the FA Cup. A brace in a friendly against Premier League champions PDRM FA last week would have whetted his appetite for a return to competitive action.

Kelantan custodian Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is fresh. Possibly too fresh. On the bench for Malaysia’s 1-4 defeat to Tajikistan, he also missed Kelantan’s last two friendlies. Mohd Shahrizan Ismail started against Terengganu and Kedah, and was instrumental in the narrow 2-1 win over the former, but couldn’t do much in the 2-4 loss to the latter. Against such esteemed opposition, coach George Boateng should return Khairul Fahmi to the starting lineup, despite his recent lack of game time.