Terengganu vs Kedah: Turtles must saves themselves
Terengganu’s do-or-die mission.
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Few would have predicted the circumstance in which these two teams meet on Saturday. Malaysia Super League’s (MSL) fourth-placed side, Terengganu, is staring at the exit while second-tier champions Kedah are on course to top Group A.
The Turtles also need to bury the ghosts of their visit to Alor Setar in September, where they were on the wrong side of a 5-0 hiding.
Terengganu have only collected one point after three matches, six shy of Kedah and LionsXII but the Turtles have played one less match than the two leaders. Failure to collect anything from this weekend's game will leave them hoping Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II beat LionsXII. Otherwise, it is goodbye to Terengganu.
But do not write Terengganu off yet. The return of Paulo Rangel – who scored two against LionsXII after serving a three-month ban for abusing match officials – could be a catalyst. However, it will have to happen without Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, who was given a five-match suspension for stamping on Kedah’s Osman Yusoff.
Having already showed how potent they can be, Kedah have been a revelation thus far with forward Sandro da Silva Mendonca leading the goal scoring charts on five goals.
The likes of Osman Yusoff, Farhan Roslan, Syafiq Ahmad and Baddrol Bakhtiar have put in eye-catching displays too in Kedah’s Malaysia Premier League (MPL) winning campaign. They have stepped up well in the Malaysia Cup, showing they might just have what it takes to compete in the MSL next year.
Terengganu’s frontline was dented after Norshahrul’s ban was announced on Friday. Rangel may not have Norshahrul for company in attack but expect Gustavo Lopez and Issey Nakajima-Farran to link up with the Brazilian as they try to open Kedah up.
Ismail Faruqi and Zubir Azmi have also returned to Kuala Terengganu on Thursday after national duty. Ismail was handed his first start in over three years against Timor Leste on Tuesday and that could boost his confidence.
Kedah have South Korean defender Bang Seung-Hwan back training with the team after he had differences with head coach Tan Cheng Hoe at the start of the campaign. But it remains to be seen if the centre-back replaces Osman, who has had solid campaign thus far and was named one of FourFourTwo’s surprise packets in the Malaysia Cup.
Player to watch: Paulo Rangel
Love him or hate him, the 30-year-old is a predator in the penalty box.
He marked his return with two goals, looking eager to make up for the months he missed due to an act of stupidity. It is easy to rile the forward but his finishing skills are second to none. He bagged nine league goals despite missing most of the second half of the season. He was also the MSL top scorer in 2014 after scoring 16 times for Selangor.
Argentine playmaker Gustavo Lopez’s defence splitting passes will no doubt present Rangel with more chances to make up for the time he missed.
Facts and figures
- Kedah secured a 1-1 draw against LionsXII in their only other away game so far.
- In comparisons, Terengganu were held 0-0 by JDT II in their sole home match during this Malaysia Cup campaign.
- The last time Terengganu hosted Kedah, Ismail Faruqi equalised in the 78th minute to deny the visitors a 2-1 win in the 2014 Malaysia Cup group stage.
Terengganu 2 Kedah 2: The Turtles certainly have it in them to score goals but Kedah look like this year’s Malaysia Cup fairytale, and are certainly no strangers to Terengganu’s defence.