And then there were eight: Weighing up the Malaysia Cup contenders
Pahang vs LionsXII
This is without doubt the clash of the round. Defending champions Pahang – who have failed to hit mark in this campaign – play the FA Cup winners from across the causeway. Matches between the two teams have been close to call with five wins each in 11 encounters since 2012.
The formbook gives the Singaporean side an advantage, with Fandi Ahmad's lads having won four of their six group matches, while Pahang suffered two big defeats to Premier League sides PKNS and Penang. The Elephants were expected to sail through Group D but limped into second place.
If Pahang fail to earn an advantage in the first leg, the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium could pose a problem. Pahang defeated LionsXII in Kuantan in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in April but Fandi Ahmad’s boys dented Pahang’s chances of a MSL title with a 4-2 win in Singapore. Don't bet on LionsXII giving up their unbeaten home streak without a huge fight.
Sarawak vs Selangor
Sarawak were the last team to secure a place in the knock-out stages and had Swiss-Liberian defender Patrick Nyema Gerhardt to thank as he cancelled out Amirulhadi Zainal’s strike to earn a draw against Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) on Saturday.
Had the East Malaysians lost, ATM would have finished second as they defeated Perak 4-3 in the group’s other tie. While an away game to Kuching is always tough as the stadium draws huge crowds to cheer the Ngap Sayot, the Red Giants have a proud record against Sarawak. In the last 15 matches, Sarawak have only beaten Selangor twice while the latter have won 10 times.
Yet, Selangor are not expected to take the match lightly after they were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Mehmet Durakovic’s side have not reach the last four since 2012. Selangor also came out tops of a group of death that included Felda United, Kelantan and T-Team.
Felda United vs Johor Darul Ta'zim
The Fighters made JDT sweat during the latter's run to the 2015 MSL title with a 2-1 win in Selayang on the final day of the season. The Southern Tigers were eventually crowned champions after Pahang lost 3-1 to Terengganu.
Irfan Bakti Abu Salim strives to do well in big matches and has a squad capable of giving JDT a run for their money. The combination of youth and experience has served Felda well as the club finished fifth on their return to top flight this year. In last year’s competition, Felda stunned then league runners-up Selangor – who boasted the best defence in the MSL that year – 4-0 in the first leg and prevailed 7-3 on aggregate. They met JDT in the semi-finals and won the first leg 4-3 in Selayang but lost 3-1 in Larkin.
JDT have grown in confidence since their defeat on the final day of the season. The star-studded club won the AFC Cup and collected full points in five of their six group matches. On current form, JDT looks more than capable of dominating the Malaysia Cup knockout stages this year but Felda could provide an acid test of their capabilities.
Kedah v PKNS
The 2015 Premier League winners have hit their stride this year. When the group stage draw was done, Kedah knew they had a chance to show why deserved to be in top flight next year. LionsXII and Terengganu were expected to progress but the northern side flexed their muscles to record home win against both teams – including a spectacular 5-0 drubbing of Terengganu at the Darul Aman Stadium on 18 September.
PKNS on the other hand punched above their weight to finish ahead of defending champions Pahang in Group D. The Red Ants have nothing spectacular in their ranks apart from lethal forward Patrick Wleh, who if given space could tear Kedah apart, but have been encouragingly resilient.
Interestingly enough, Kedah have not beaten PKNS since their 5-2 win in the 2008 FA Cup first round. PKNS defeated Kedah 2-1 in Klang Valley last March and secured a point at the Darul Aman Stadium in July.