BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
It’s about time. Edward Junior Wilson is no longer one of the Malaysian Premier League’s best kept secrets; two goals in the semi-finals of the FA Cup against the defending champions will do that to a striker.
The Premier League’s top scorer with 16 goals in 17 games, Wilson is the latest in a long line of deadly Liberian strikers who have graced our local leagues. Pace, power, tremendous strength, he has it all, and has already proved more than a handful for Super League defences, as Felda dispatched three top-tier sides to reach the final.
Wilson will be up against Pahang’s Mr. Dependable, Damion Stewart. Impeccable in the air, chuck anything at him and he’ll head/clear it away. The big Jamaican’s only weakness is mobility (or lack thereof), draw him out of his own box and watch him huff and puff his way back.
Worryingly for Pahang, that’s exactly what Felda are capable of doing, especially with the return from suspension of Liberian playmaker Zah Rahan Krangar, who has become adept at switching positions with Wilson and Indra Putra, forming a fluid front three. Wilson likes to work the channels, and if Stewart leaves his central post and follows him, it might create space for an opposing runner to burst through.
||VS||INDRA PUTRA MAHAYUDDIN
One for the romantics, this. Pahang have wrapped captain Jalaluddin Jaafar in cotton wool for most of the campaign, but let him loose against JDT in the second leg of the semi-final for his first start since lifting the Malaysia Cup in November 2013. Despite being 39 years of age, he had star wingers Amri Yahyah and Jorge Pereyra Diaz in his pocket throughout.
Along with Shukor, Indra Putra was another veteran picked up by Felda United in the off-season to help them earn immediate promotion back to the Super League. He hasn’t disappointed, striking up a fantastic understanding with Liberian duo Edward Wilson and Zah Rahan Krangar, the trio combining for 36 goals in all competitions thus far, almost as many as Pahang have scored all season. The skillful winger is also aiming to lift the FA Cup trophy for the third year in a row.
Jalal and Indra have won every major honour there is to win in Malaysian football, and it would be fitting if they should come face-to-face to decide the fate of 2014’s FA Cup.
Old vs. new, this midfield battle will pit a respected M-League veteran against one of Harimau Malaya’s rising stars.
Shukor Adan may have been in the business for almost two decades, but he’s still been putting in shifts, playing where Irfan Bakti needs him to, be it in midfield or central defence. From scoring the winner in the 1st round, to setting up Indra Putra’s goal in the second leg of the semi-final, he has captained Felda through the FA Cup with some inspired leadership, culminating in the club’s first cup final appearance.
While one midfield general is gradually approaching the end of his playing career, another seeks to continue his ascent to the peak. Hafiz Kamal capped a successful couple of years with Pahang with his international debut in March, and he has only grown more influential as the Elephants reached their second successive cup final while challenging for the Super League title.
Shukor retains his competitive bite in midfield, and occasionally breaks forward to support the strikers, but his main job is to provide a secure platform for The Settlers’ (re-nicknamed The Fighters by now) prolific attack to express themselves. He will aim to win his third FA Cup, having previously lifted the trophy with Selangor and Negri Sembilan, and his experience will be invaluable.
Meanwhile, Hafiz is no less feisty. Aggressively pressuring opposing midfielders when without the ball, he sends intelligent passes once he regains it. He’s no less handy at free-kicks, scoring twice from left-foot curlers in the FA Cup already, and setting up teammates from set-pieces, a vital source of Pahang’s goals this season.