Malaysia Cup | Larkin Stadium | Sat 21 Nov | 8.45pm
Crocs living on a prayer
Sarawak have their knock-out stage hopes in their hands but it will be tall order coming up against AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), who look capable of sweeping all before them in the domestic scene.
The final Group B matches will decide who fills up the final slot in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals. Sarawak will progress if they get a point but a loss will leave them at the mercy of ATM, who can pip them to second place if they defeat Perak at the Paroi Stadium. The Gladiators have already beaten Perak (2-0) at their home ground back in September.
The Malaysia Super League (MSL) back-to-back winners have hit the right notes under Argentine coach Mario Gomez and are not expected to ease their foot off the accelerator despite already securing top spot in the group.
JDT even have the luxury of resting players for the quarter-final first leg next Tuesday, but it will still be a team good enough to challenge most opposition teams. For the record, Sarawak suffered a 3-0 home defeat last time the two teams met.
Sarawak skipper Joseph Kalang Tie will be missing again due his five-match suspension for violent conduct against Perak in October. The winger will also miss the quarter-final if Sarawak reach the last eight.
JDT could rest Malaysian national team players such as Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak and Safee Sali as they only returned to training on Thursday following two demanding World Cup qualifiers.
Also, the Southern Tigers could be forgiven for having one eye on the quarter-final tie against Felda United, which takes place on Nov 24 and 28. With all last eight and semi-final ties taking place over a 12-day period, team management will be crucial if the club harbours any hopes of a treble this year.
Player to watch: Amri Yahyah
The veteran forward could be given a start as he missed Malaysia’s 2-1 loss to United Arab Emirates due to suspension.
Amri has a point to prove after being an unused substitute in the AFC Cup final against Istiklol. He also started in the 2-1 win over Perak last time out, where his goal was a talking point after the MSL winners ignored calls to put the ball out for an opponent to seek treatment.
Amri has been a livewire for the team when he plays and at 34-years-old is still arguably Malaysia’s most exciting forward.
Facts and figures
- Sarawak have not won away from home since defeating Kelantan 1-0 in April 2014, losing 14 of their 20 games on the road
- In contrast, JDT have not lost at home since PKNS took three points off them in September 2013
- The Southern Tigers have won all their group matches thus far, sealing top spot in the Group B standings with ease
JDT 2 Sarawak 0: The thought of bowing out of the competition will push Sarawak on but the hosts have too much in their armory for Ronny Harun and co to deal with.