Malaysian Super League Team of the Year 2014
This season, there were not many goalkeepers more consistent than Farizal Marlias. The former Perak shot-stopper initially did not have a good start, losing 2-1 to the LionsXII and 4-1 to JDT, but he eventually led his team to an 11-game unbeaten run that saw Selangor surge up the league table. In the end, he conceded only 19 goals and kept 11 clean sheets during the entire season.
In what was a poor season for dethroned league champions LionsXII – finishing closer to the relegation zone than to the top of the league table – they could, however, find solace in the coming of age of Safuwan Baharudin. Following the (temporary) departure of Baihakki Khaizan, the 22-year-old defender matured splendidly to capitalise on his vast potential. The Singapore international also demonstrated his versatility to play in attacking positions, as he was occasionally deployed by Fandi Ahmad up front and notched up four league goals – the second highest in the team.
Ever present at the heart of Terengganu’s defence, Vincent Bikana was instrumental in his team’s impressive early season form as he marshalled a defence that conceded only eight goals in the first 11 games. The 22-year-old Cameroonian’s towering frame also came in handy during set pieces as he netted two league goals – both goals coincidentally came against the same opponents, JDT on separate occasions.
ASRARUDDIN PUTRA OMAR
After initially sitting out of the first few games, Asraruddin Putra Omar went on to cement his position at left-back for JDT and put in good shifts for the rest of the season. The national defender was not afraid to bomb forward to provide crosses and have occasional shots at goal too – he actually found the back of the net once during a 2-1 defeat to ATM. His best game was arguably against Selangor at the Shah Alam Stadium, where he kept Andik Vermasyah (below) quiet and helped create JDT’s winning goal.
Did you know? Of the five penalties awarded to Selangor this season, two were won by Andik Vermansyah. Having settled quickly in Malaysia after signing from Persebaya 1927, the Indonesian winger was not afraid to let loose his devastating speed and nimble footwork to run rings around defenders. And being just 22 turning 23 soon, it is a frightening thought for defenders that Andik could get better…
It was difficult not to notice Azidan Sarudin on the pitch, mainly thanks to his Freddie Ljungberg-ish hairstyles. His contributions as a midfield pivot to the team were equally as flashy too, consistently displaying a knack for either picking out the inch-perfect pass or unleashing long range drives. He also proved himself to be a true blue warrior – after he was accidentally kneed in the head by team-mate Saiful Nizam Miswan in a 2-2 draw with JDT, forcing him to be rushed to the hospital with a concussion, he immediately returned to action in the following match against Terengganu.
ZAIRO ANUAR ZALANI
Despite being the oldest player in the squad at the age of 32, Zairo Anuar Zalani proved that experience prevails over youthful enthusiasm and athleticism by scoring five times for Terengganu. Not only was that, the former Kelantan playmaker was dangerous from indirect free-kicks and corners with his crossing ability, taking full advantage of his side’s bigger and taller players.
Starting in all but one league game for Pahang, R. Gopinathan and his lightning quick feet were a deadly force to be reckoned with as he constantly left his markers either flatfooted or eating his dust. The left winger has also been hailed by former Selangor captain K. Sanbagamaran as the best local player in the league at the moment.
JORGE PEREYRA DIAZ
When JDT replaced former World Cup star Pablo Aimar with a relatively unknown Argentine named Jorge Pereyra Diaz, even the most faithful Southern Tigers fans would’ve thought TMJ had lost the plot. However, Diaz proved all his doubters wrong as he put on dazzling performances week in, week out. Even though he was only featured in the remaining eight league games of the season, he managed to help himself to eight goals, including a hat-trick in a famous comeback win against Terengganu, and three assists.
Paulo Rangel continued where he left off in Perak by beginning his career with Selangor in a blistering form, scoring 16 goals in 19 league games. The Brazilian’s importance to Mehmet Durakovic’s side could not be better illustrated than in the ATM and Kelantan matches he missed following his (unfortunate?) red card against Terengganu. Both games came during the crunch time of the exciting title race; without their top scorer, the Red Giants were toothless up front, losing both games and the grip they initially had on the league title.
You know Luciano Figueroa played extremely well when he kept national strikers Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee Sali on the bench. Tireless and hardworking, JDT’s signing from Panathinaikos was without a doubt one of the best buys of the season. His almost telepathic understanding with fellow Argentine Diaz was also a key to his team's league triumph. The former Boca Juniors striker’s 11 league goals could not bag him the Golden Boot honour, but hey, at least he got a Super League medal as a consolation…
(Photos Credit: Rizanizam, Ahmad Ridhuan, Zaid Ayid, Zulkifly Abdul Hamid / www.asiana.my)