Negeri Sembilan - Pahang Preview: Deers will want to repeat winning performance to avoid relegation

Negeri Sembilan to face Pahang at home in a do-or-die mission of a match that fans must watch until the final whistle, considering the Tok Gajahs' latest feat
Fauzi (c) - Modibo - Ghani - Alif
Shahurain - Amirul - Fadhil - Sivanesan - Nazrin

Jalalludin (c) - Stewart - Razman - Shahrizan
Surendran - Amirul Hadi - Faizol - Gopinathan
Azammudin - Fauzi

Although the attention of Malaysian football fans will no doubt be directed towards title-chasing ATM and JDT this Wednesday, the Paroi Stadium will also offer another kind of battle at the same time. Newly-rejuvenated Negeri Sembilan are set to continue their massive effort of coming back from the possibility of relegation, by entertaining a Pahang team that have have come back from the dead in their previous three matches.

After having been written off due to their poor performance throughout most of the season, Negeri Sembilan finally decided that they have had enough, and rested their coach Divaldo Alves. Critics were saying that the change came too late, especially when they were about to face ATM last Saturday. Caretaker coach Ridzuan Abu Shah nevertheless made some vital changes to the squad, and the Deers surprisingly ended up winning the match, only their first league win of the season. Ridzuan will do well to rely on the same set of players to repeat the winning performance on Wednesday night. Nazrin Nawi was a different player altogether in the match, constantly leaving behind the ATM defence in his wake with his piercing runs; Shahurain Abu Samah was equally threatening, if a little unlucky in finding a goal for himself; and William Modibo was a reassuring presence at the back as he cleaned up after a few mistakes made by the Negeri second goalkeeper; Badrulzaman Halim who was picked over Hamsani Ahmad. On top of that, it must be noted that although their season has been dismal, the results of their home matches have been slightly encouraging, they have only lost three home games and drew the remaining six.

Although Pahang are nowhere near the top of the league and have not won their last three matches, their performance is nothing short of remarkable. They have drawn these matches, each time by finding the equaliser in the dying minutes of the match and they are nothing if not dogged. They drew against Selangor, then against Terengganu, and last Saturday against league leaders LionsXII in a pulsating home match. Pahang coach Dollah Salleh is probably going to rely on the pairing of Azamuddin Akil and Fauzi Roslan upfront, whereas their midfield is going to be led by former national team winger Amirul Hadi who has found second life at Pahang as a defensive midfielder. Their defensive line will no doubt feature former Jamaican international Damion Stewart who took the risk of joining the attack after going behind in the last two matches, which ultimately paid off when he provided the assist for their equaliser against LionsXII.

Without diminishing the significance of the matches involving the league leaders, fans who are looking for something a little less glamorous but equally mouth-watering should head to Seremban on Wednesday night. Expect a combative game, especially from the Deers who are definitely going to pull out all the stops to halt their drop. But just as a reminder, stay until the final whistle if Negeri do lead the game. Pahang might just make it four last-minute equalisers in as many matches.

  • Although Negeri now sit at the bottom and Pahang are in 5th, the Elephants have conceded more goals in the league; 23 to the Deers' 19.

  • Last weekend, both teams met the top two teams of MSL; ATM and LionsXII, and both teams caused the title-chasers to drop points. Negeri Sembilan beat ATM whereas Pahang snatched the equaliser in stoppage time.

  • The two teams have met 16 times since 2005, with Pahang winning seven of those encounters, Negeri four, and tying five times.

  • Negeri Sembilan and Pahang have each played 17 league games this season. If Negeri win all five of their remaining games and Pahang lose theirs, Negeri will finish the league with one point less than Pahang.

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