by Keeshanan Sundaresan
Kelantan defender S. Subramaniam has warned his Malaysian teammates to keep an eye on Shahril Ishak, who could be potentially destructive in the Suzuki Cup clash between Malaysia and Singapore this weekend.
Shahril is already a popular name among Malaysian football fans following his exploits with LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League last season, and Subra believes that he could pose a strong challenge on the Malaysian defence on Sunday.
"We will have to be careful with Shahril Ishak," Subra said in an exclusive interview with Goal.com Malaysia.
"He's a very good technical player and his goalscoring record is phenomenal as well. I think he will be Singapore's most dangerous player. To win on Sunday, Malaysia would have to cut Singapore from crosses and set pieces as they are very tricky when it comes to set play. If we can prevent them from getting corners and free kicks, I think we stand a huge chance of winning the game."
Subramaniam is regarded as one the finest defenders in Malaysia but an unfortunate knee injury forced him out of the Suzuki Cup. Fans have been citing his absence as a key factor behind the team's shaky defence in recent games, with the Malayan Tigers conceding soft goals against Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and Bangladesh.
However, the former Perak man reiterated his support and belief for K. Rajagopal's man and urged supporters to jump into the bandwagon as well : "Friendly matches and real games are totally different. We cannot come to a conclusion based on the friendly match results. Either way, I think it's important we step up and show support for the team now. The fans and players need to believe that they can bounce back and retain the title."
Safee Sali was the pivotal figure of Malaysia's triumph two years ago, scoring five goals to inspire the team. However, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was often the architect behind the moves as he performed the 'False Number 9' role behind Safee. His contributions were certainly crucial and Subramaniam believes that it will be the same this time around.
"Mat Yo will be our key player this year," added Subramaniam.
"The Malaysian fans are expecting a lot from him and I think he will deliver. Safiq has to play a big role as the captain but that applied with every other player as well. They have to believe that they can win the title again. "