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AFC Champions League

Shahrul aiming for Perak to carry Malaysia's name well in ACL preliminary stage

3:00 AM EST 2/10/19
Shahrul Saad, Perak v Kedah, Super League, 8 Feb 2019
Shahrul Saad is looking to ensure that Perak will prove against the Hong Kong side that they deserved to have a longer stay among Asia's elite teams.

Tuesday will see Perak taking on Hong Kong's Kitchee FC in the 2019 AFC Champions League preliminary stage round 2. The single match elimination will decide who will advance through to the next stage of the qualification where South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai lies in wait.

For the first time, a Malaysian side will play host for the preliminary stage as the AFC Club Rankings dictates that the Member Association in the higher position will be the host and thus advantage is with Perak. Yet this will not be the first time that the two sides face each other at Perak Stadium, having played there in 2008 in the AFC Cup group stage where Perak emerged 2-1 winners.

In that match, Hardi Jaafar had struck a beautiful long range opener before defensive calamity allowed Goran Stankovski to equalised. But Perak had the last laugh when centre back Mario Esteban struck in the second minute of added time in the second half to seal a win for the home side. Perak eventually finished a place higher than Kitchee in the group.

"It was a disappointing result (draw against Kedah) because we wanted three points in Ipoh. There was a bit of effect from the disruption in the game in the second half and that cost us maximum points. Maybe FAM will need to do something. The fourth official was from Ipoh, perhaps that wasn't fair to the opponents so I hope some remedy could be put in place in the future."

"Even though we only got one point from two (Super League ) matches, but it wasn't easy because both the teams that we've faced thus far are strong teams. Against Kitchee, we owe it to ourselves to prove that the Perak team are one of the better teams in Malaysia," Shahrul told Goal.

Perak have yet to win in the two matches that they've played this season, against Johor Darul Ta'zim and Kedah. However, The Bos Gaurus also do not need fear that Kitchee will be coming into this match in great form as the Hong Kong side lost 2-3 to Pegasus in the last match that they played on January 29.

There were signs of improving partnership between Shahrul and Zachary Anderson at the heart of Perak's defence, which could prove crucial in Tuesday's match. One area of concern for Shahrul will be the question mark over the fitness of left back Nazirul Naim, who hobbled off injured in the first half of the match against Kedah.

Should the Malaysia international fail to recover in time, it looks like head coach Mehmed Durakovic will be relying on the experienced Rafiuddin Rodin to fill in. Perak however will head into the match in a confident mood and will start the match as favourites to advance to the next stage of the qualifying process.


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