Stunned in the Malaysia FA Cup last week, Selangor are hoping to quickly bounce back against Singaporean side Tampines Rovers in the AFC Cup group stage at the Selayang Stadium on Tuesday.
Selangor coach Zainal Abidin Hassan doesn't want his team to get in the habit of conceding the first goal in matches, particularly in the AFC Cup, believing the continental stage can be even less forgiving.
The Red Giants have conceded the first goal in five of their seven matches in all competitions this season, with their run of salvaging something from those matches coming to an end against PDRM on Friday, when a two-goal deficit in the FA Cup round three proved too difficult to overcome.
Selangor did get one goal back but couldn’t prevent a 2-1 defeat to crash out of the competition and Zainal has warned his players that Tampines Rovers may also be difficult to break if they score first.
“At this level, one mistake and you will get punished. We can’t afford to let things slip from the start. I don’t want my players to get into the habit of conceding first,” Zainal told Monday’s pre-match press conference.
“We have to forget the FA Cup loss. We did our best to come back after going down but it was not working. Tiredness cannot be an excuse. The players have to be ready mentally and physically whenever called upon.
“We need three points tomorrow to complement the valuable (AFC Cup) point we got away to Ceres a fortnight ago.”
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Indonesian starlet Andik Vermansyah (hamstring) is expected to return to the squad, but whether he starts remains a doubt after he missed Selangor’s previous two matches.
Malaysia international Ahmad Hazwan Bakri is back with the squad, but is unlikely to feature due to fitness concerns, while centre-back Robert Cornthwaite is still two weeks away from action.
“Cornthwaite is an important player, just like every other player here. We all have a role to play. Fortunately, we have replacements in the likes of Rizal Fahmi and Razman Roslan that can slot in comfortably,” said the Australian’s defence partner and Selangor skipper Shahrom Kalam.
“The morale in the team is good despite the FA Cup defeat. It’s never nice to lose but I’m glad it happened early in the season and we can work ourselves to improve as the season goes.”