The 2016 Malaysia Cup final will see a repeat tussle between Kedah and Selangor after their respective semi-final wins over PDRM and T-Team. Vijhay Vick lists his observations...
Repeat final but things couldn't be more different now
Selangor only ensured order remained when they prevailed over then Malaysia Premier League (MPL) winners to lift the Malaysia Cup. This time, however, Selangor could consider themselves the underdogs as Kedah have made giant leaps forward.
Kedah’s brand of football has also earned admirers while Selangor have only attracted interest for all the wrong reasons since the start of season, including the appointment and sacking of Zainal Abidin Hassan as coach.
Early goals killed T-Team
T-Team were expected to give the defending champions a tough fight, with some even tipping the Terengganu-based club to reach their first Cup final of any sort.
Rahmad Darmawan’s men have won hearts with their determination to stay in the MSL after exceeding expectations by never being in the relegation zone despite having arguably the weakest squad on paper.
Yet T-Team only have themselves to blame for the exit after shoddy defending allowed Selangor to race to a three-goal lead on aggregate, leaving the hosts needing four goals to turn the tie around. T-Team started the tie needing only a 1-0 win to progress on the away-goal rule.
The Titans improved their play as the match progressed, but they found their place too late as Selangor were already in cruise control.
Kedah winning it from the back
The Red Eagles have been in fine form since the start of the competition with young goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal recording six clean sheets already, but there will be no greater test than halting Selangor’s attacking threat.
Selangor are the highest scoring team in the competition with 22 goals – including 10 in the knockout rounds alone.
Even the absence of skipper Khairul Helmi Johari did little to shake Kedah’s back-four against PDRM on Saturday as Syawal Nordin proved to be an effective replacement alongside Korean Bang Seung-hwan.
The rigid defence, coupled with dominant midfielders in Liridon Krasniqi, Baddrol Bakhtiar and 21-year-old Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik playing in front of it, allows Kedah to build their play and unlock opponents.
The Cops were extremely tight at the back but Selangor are not. The Red Giants did manage to keep T-Team from scoring on Saturday, but have already conceded four goals in the knockout stages.