MSL Talking Points: A blasted pitch ‘which a cow wouldn’t even want’
WINNERS BY A MILE (OR MORE)
The Southern Tigers had a nervy start to the season, largely due to coaching and player changes, but once they got into their groove, there was only one clear winner.
JDT won a record fourth straight MSL title with three matches to spare because they have an unassailable 11-point lead over second-placed Kedah.
The Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim-led club lost to Selangor on Saturday but they had gone on a run of 11 wins in previous 12 matches, a form that only spelt C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N-S.
The appointment of Ulisses Morais in the dugout and arrival of Natxo Insa from Spanish side Levante in mid-season have transformed the club into a more dominant outfit. The club are already looking as most likely winners in 2018 too.
'SELANGOR COULD CHALLENGE FOR TITLE'
Morais did not mince his words after JDT fell 2-1 to Selangor in Selayang.
He admitted his side struggled to cope with instructions when Junior Eldstal was brought in for Afiq Fazail in the second half.
Truth be told it was difficult to tell if it was a like-for-like swap or a change in formation to a back-three.
Eldstal was seen in a holding midfield role but he was later the deepest defender when Andik Vermansyah broke loose and scored the winner.
Yet Morais took nothing away from Selangor, commenting that they could have challenged for the MSL title.
“If Selangor play like how they did against us all the time, they may been challenging JDT for the title,” he said.
PENANG'S ALMOST DONE BUT RELEGATION BATTLE HEATS UP
Bottom of the table since the start of the season, Zainal Abidin Hassan’s side are six points away from safety with just three matches remaining.
The fact there are four other teams – Sarawak, Melaka United, Kelantan and T-Team – above them still desperate for points only makes it tougher.
Penang play T-Team before ending their season against second-place hopefuls Perak and Selangor.
Final day clashes between Melaka United and Kelantan, and Sarawak and T-Team, may also decide who drops to the Malaysia Premier League.
'PITCH SO POOR, EVEN A COW WOULDN'T WANT IT'
Felda United went to Kota Bahru as the second best in-form team with six wins in seven matches and three points was expected out of a team on a continuous slide that may eventually put them in the second tier next year.
Yet Kelantan held Felda 1-1 to stay one point above the relegation zone.
The Fighters’ coach Satiananthan, a former Kelantan coach, vented his frustration on the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium pitch, saying it was so poor that even a cow wouldn’t graze on it.
“Kelantan were a difficult place to win in the past but now even they are struggling to play because of the pitch,” said Satiananthan reported Berita Harian.
“When I was here, I remember we had among the best pitches in Malaysia but now I think even a cow wouldn't want it.”
FIGHT FOR SECOND DOWN TO THE WIRE
Three other teams – Felda, Selangor and Perak – are also in the mix as they are all level on 30 points, four away from Kedah. Pahang have 33 points after their 2-0 win over Kedah on Saturday.
While Kedah only have pride to play for by finishing second, the other four teams have more at stake for them.
Having already won the FA Cup, Kedah have a spot in the 2018 AFC Cup. While league champions JDT will take the other slot, the possibility of the Southern Tigers having a successful AFC Champions League qualifiers may open another slot for a Malaysian club in the AFC Cup.
Thus finishing second (or third if Kedah are second) may be rewarding for Pahang, Felda, Selangor and Perak.