MPL Review: Negeri hit the ground running

Negeri Sembilan have set the pace in the Malaysia Premier League (MPL) by opening a four-point lead over second-place Terengganu (18 points) with surprise-package Perak SEDC at third position with 15 points.

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Negeri were on a seven match winning streak before they were held 1-1 by University Technology Mara FC (UiTM FC) in Shah Alam on March 7.

Coach Asri Ninggal said the unexpected draw with UiTM was like a ‘defeat’ to Negeri as they were expecting three points.

“We could have been six points ahead of second-placed Terengganu. The draw is a lesson to us. We cannot afford off days in the MPL.

“Last year, we were on course for promotion in the first half of the season before things did not materialise. We need to keep going and win matches,” said Asri, who was assistant to Australian coach Gary Phillips in 2016.

Asri, however, is happy with the progress and attributes his team’s firing form to teamwork.

“There are no superstars in the team. We work as a unit and play as a unit. The togetherness shared among the players must be continued to ensure success,” Asri added.

Sabah and Perlis occupy the bottom two spots in the MPL with the former earning only four points while Perlis have recorded two draws and six defeats.

Trouble is brewing for Sabah at the moment

Perlis have a new coach in former Perak trainer Shahrul Saad following the resignation of Razip Ismail on March 3 after the 5-0 mauling by Kuantan.

Sabah coach Steve Vilmiaire and manager Adlane Messelem were sacked today following the team's poor form.

Youth team coach Jelius Ating, who recently obtained his 'A' coaching license, has been promoted to take charge of Sabah's senior team while Datuk Juil Nuatim has been appointed as the new team manager.The MPL is on a break and will only resume on April 7 for the ninth round of matches.

Malaysia Cup Qualification

Only the top five teams after 11 rounds will qualify for the Malaysia Cup.

Negeri are the only team who have qualified for the country’s most prestigious tournament after eight MPL matches.

The next three rounds are expected to be exciting as all, except for Sabah and Perlis, have a chance to make the Malaysia Cup cut.

Leading Scorers

As expected, foreign players lead the charge for the MPL Golden Boot award with PDRM’s Dao Bakary, Johor Darul Ta’zim II’s (JDT II) Nicolas Fernandez, Negeri’s Bruno Castanheira and MISC-MIFA’s Michael Ijezie at the top of the chart with eight goals each.

Negeri forward Castanheira is on fire at the moment

South Korea midfielder Do Dong Hyun and Nigerian striker Akanni-Sunday Wasiu, who are from UiTM, have scored seven each along with MISC-MIFA’s Tagne Foguieng.

Terengganu’s Issey Nakajima Farran is next on the chart with six goals.

Kuantan FA’s Nabilah Khan and Armed Forces’ Venice Elphi lead the chart for local scorers with four goals each.

Other News

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have completed its investigation on MISC-MIFA for possible match-fixing activities and the case has been handed to the association’s disciplinary board for further action.

FAM general-secretary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin had instructed the association’s integrity unit to conduct a probe on the MPL club recently.

Coach Jacob Joseph and several players were summoned to the FAM headquarters in Kelana Jaya to give statements.

Joseph had confided to the media by claiming that his players were dishonest on two occasions---after the 6-3 thrashing by Sarawak in a FA Cup match on February 14 and the 7-2 defeat to UiTM in an MPL game on March 3.

MISC-MIFA are just above the relegation zone at 10th with six points after eight matches.

Meanwhile, former national goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee Ramli has been de-registered by Terengganu as the custodian is seeking treatment for cancer.

Terengganu captain Sharbinee (left) has been de-registered from the squad

The 30-year-old showed signs of illness early last month and it was first thought that he was down with lung infection. But a scan revealed that he had advanced stage cancer and is now on treatment.

Sharbinee, who has earned nine international caps, was a member of Malaysia's victorious 2009 Laos SEA Games and the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup teams.

Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti has replaced him with 39-year-old custodian Suffian Abdul Rahman.

Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) gave clearance to Terengganu to replace Sharbinee outside the transfer window as it was a special case.

On another issue, JDT II released 17-year-old striker Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak mid last month to Malaysia Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) under the special feeder club agreement.

Hadi Fayyadh scored three goals (two in the FA Cup and one in the MPL) for JDT II before his promotion to JDT under coach Benjamin Mora.