Could this be Selangor's year? Assessing the Malaysia Cup semi-finalists
The defending champions are still in it despite struggling to find consistency in the competition. The Elephants almost let slip a 4-1 quarter-final first leg advantage over LionsXII but managed to limit the Singaporean side to a 2-0 win at Jalan Besar Stadium to progress.
The Group stages had not been impressive for Pahang who limped second behind Premier League side PKNS in Group D. Pahang won their opening two matches – at home to PDRM and away to PKNS – but suffered 4-1 defeats to Penang and PKNS. Zainal Abidin Hassan’s men then defeated PDRM 3-0 and played out a scoreless tie with Penang in Kuantan to qualify for the knockout stages.
Consistency and their defensive woes is something the coach must address in his squad. Hafiz Kamal is back in midfield after injury and will bring stability. R.Gopinathan did not start at the weekend, but came off the bench terrorise the LionsXII defence with his lighting speed.
Skipper Razman Roslan is making good recovery and could feature at some point in the semi-final.
Dickson Nwakaeme is also at his best, constantly bringing his teammate into play. How Nwakaeme makes the attack tick and their defensive stability could be key to Pahang’s dream of their third successive final.
FourFourTwo can reveal that Zainal Abidin Hassan and up to five players could make their way to Selangor next season, and the semi-final tie offers them a chance to show the Red Giants first-hand exactly what they could be capable of next year.
The Red Giants booked their spot in the last four for the first time since 2012 with a hard fought 3-2 aggregate win over Sarawak. It was nothing spectacular but Selangor’s work rate cannot go unmentioned.
It is widely reported the Malaysia Cup is Mehmet Durakovic’s last assignment but the Australian insisted he was not distracted by speculation.
While Selangor have been criticised for their lack of ideas going forward in the past, the 32-time Malaysia Cup champions were the highest scoring side in the 2015 Malaysia Super League (MSL). They finished third behind Pahang in the standings but FIFA’s decision to dock Pahang six points sees Selangor move up to second and gain an AFC Cup slot next year.
Selangor suffered a 3-0 home loss to Kelantan on the opening day and knives were out as another early exit from the competition beckoned. But Selangor went on top Group C, which was considered the group of death with Felda United and T-Team drawn in.
Brazilians Guilherme de Paula and Leandro Dos Santos are not the best imports around, but Durakovic has been pleased with their work rate.
Meanwhile, Afiq Azmi has found his goalscoring boots after a barren run in the group stage. The local forward scored once in each quarter-final legs against Sarawak. He is also the highest-ranking Malaysian in the MSL top scorers list, with eight strikes last season.
Pahang will find Selangor difficult to break down, but the Red Giants’ perseverance could undo the former’s weak backline.