2014 Malaysia Cup team preview: Perak

Excluding Terengganu, Perak will be facing the same group opponents – Sarawak and Kedah – they played in last season’s Malaysia Cup.  A potential case of history repeating itself?

Perak

Home Ground: Perak Stadium, Ipoh

Nickname: The Bos Gaurus

Super League: 9th

FA Cup: First Round

Last Season's Malaysia Cup: Group stages

What happened in the league?

At one point of the season, Perak looked all but certain to end their 25-year record of never being relegated from the top flight as they picked just seven points in their first 13 league games and lingered dangerously in the relegation zone. However, the return of Karl Heinz Weigang, who coached the team in the late 90s, in a technical advisory capacity to assist head coach Abu Bakar Fadzim coupled with mid-season foreign player replacements Milan Purovic, Abdulafees Abdulsalam, Marco Tulio and Hassan Daher saw them impressively garner 19 points out of a possible 27 and turn their season around.

The perception

How on earth a team relying on an unproven head coach, kids and discarded players from other clubs and spending almost their season in the bottom two beat Pahang 3-0 on the final matchday to escape from relegation? Match-fixing! 

The reality

Well, to be fair, Pahang fielded a weakened side against them. At the moment, Perak are doing as well as they can due to the little financial power they have, but that has seemingly become a blessing in disguise. The departures of their experienced players have allowed exciting football prospects like Azmeer Yusof, Nasir Basharudin and Norhakim Isa to blossom at the Perak Stadium. 

Credit: www.asiana.my

Strengths

Defense. Despite having a miserable 12 in the losses column, a joint-high with relegated PKNS, they had the third best defense in the league behind league champions JDT and runners-up Selangor, conceding only 27 goals (25, if you do not include their defeat to T-Team, which initially finished 1-1 but was overturned to 3-0). They also only dropped two points from winning positions, sharing the record with the Southern Tigers.

Weaknesses

Finding the back of the net was almost an impossible task. Purovic and Abdulsalam only joined in April, but both of them finished as their joint top scorers with five goals each. If you throw in the other two midseason signings, Tulio and Daher, the quarter scored almost 70 per cent of Perak’s total league goals. During the entire league campaign, they fired blanks for a grand total of 10 matches, more than T-Team (the only team that scored fewer goals than them) and PKNS respectively did.

The player to watch

Marco Tulio. Following the experienced Brazilian’s arrival in the Silver State, Perak’s ball retention has improved, with the team commanding the lion’s share of possession in all but one of their last eight league games that inevitably created goal-scoring chances. A free-kick specialist as well, he is capable of unleashing fierce shots and providing accurate delivery from outside the box.

The boss

It remains to be seen if Abu Bakar is the right man for the job as his side struggled for the majority of the season. While the Bos Gaurus did improve tremendously in the second half of the season to finish just above the relegation zone, Weigang was often credited for their improvement in form instead of him. With the recent departure of the German, ‘Burn’ must make full use of this Malaysia Cup opportunity to prove his worth and tactical nous.

Group stage fixtures

Aug 14 – Kedah (H)

Aug 20 – Sarawak (H)

Aug 23 – Terengganu (A)

Aug 27 – Terengganu (H)

Aug 30 – Sarawak (A)

Sep 3 – Kedah (A)

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