2014 Malaysia Cup team preview: Sarawak
Home Ground: State Stadium, Kuching
Nickname: The Crocs
Super League: 7th
FA Cup: Quarter-finals
Last Season's Malaysia Cup: Semi-finals
Sarawak had a league campaign that never really seemed to take off, yet did not actually end up being a mess either. Wins were sporadically strung together before being punctured by unexpected defeats as consistency remained an issue with the team as a whole. A relatively high turnover of foreign players did not help matters as the playing chemistry was affected from not having a settled squad. Their mid-table position was where many predicted Sarawak would end up.
Having won the Premier League at a canter in 2013, expectations were high at the start of the season. With a glut of new signings, the departures of Bobby Gonzalez and Guy Bwele were assumed to be insignificant and that the Crocs would go from strength to strength and, at the very least, challenge for honours.
The reality was much more sobering as the squad failed to find any consistency. For every excellent result (like the away 1-0 defeat of Selangor in the FA Cup or the 1-1 draw with JDT), there would be puzzling defeats to relegation candidates like ATM or T-Team. This was a team clearly struggling to find its rhythm.
Sarawak have the bonus of being a team that is pacey and willing to attack. Their style is fast and can unsettle defences that are not well-equipped to deal with the speed of players such as Joseph Kalang Tie, S. Chanturu or Ashri Chuchu. Chances aplenty are created by Sarawak.
Unfortunately, Sarawak have major problems with finishing and defensive consistency. With a goal difference of -5, clearly the team’s defensive aspects need some tweaking, and the likes of Salibasic (long-term injury) and Ryan Griffiths (signed in the second half of the season) have not been contributing a lot on the attacking side.
The player to watch
Being the highest-placed local goalscorer in the charts, Chanturu will look to continue his goal-scoring exploits in the Malaysia Cup.
When Robert Alberts gets it right, he gets it spectacularly right (such as the tactical masterclass in the 2-0 defeat of PKNS in Selayang). When he gets it wrong, he gives off the impression of a coach unsure as to how to fix it (such as that defeat to T-Team). By and large, he’s been doing okay, but plenty of the fanbase will be more than willing to give the man who gave them an Invincibles season time to get things right.
Group stage fixtures
Aug 14 – Terengganu (H)
Aug 20 – Perak (A)
Aug 23 – Kedah (H)
Aug 27 – Kedah (A)
Aug 30 – Perak (H)
Sep 3 – Terengganu (A)