KUALA LUMPUR – The 2015 FA Cup final clash between Kelantan and Singaporean team Lions XII at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil tonight is not only just a tactical chess game between two experienced coaches, Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah and Fandi Ahmad.
In fact, the match also borders on the pride of the football fraternity in the two countries as Azraai Khor would also be shouldering the hopes of thousands of other Malaysians to keep the cup, introduced in 1990, in the country.
Fandi who was the man behind Singapore’s victory in the 1994 Malaysia Cup with a 4-0 demolition of Pahang at Shah Alam Stadium, hopes to repeat his success for Lions XII.
Several local coaches when contacted by Bernama today found the odds in favour of Kelantan, who are two-time FA Cup champions.
Super League’s Felda United FC coach, Irfan Bakti Abu Salim felt Kelantan have better chances with their reliable goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and experienced lethal striker, Muhammad Norfarhan Muhammad.
Apart from that, the 64-year-old coach also conceded the advantage of the East Coast squad with four import play-makers, namely Austin Amutu, Jonathan McKain, Erwin Carillo and Gilmar Jose Da Silva.
“Kelantan are poised to produce their best peformance but the players must not take lightly Lions XII who have a handful of national players,” he said, targeting Kelantan to win 2-0.
Irfan also reminded Kelantan to be on a look out for set piece play and counter attacks by Lions XII, especially Singapore national player, Muhammad Khairul Amri Mohammad Kamal apart from midfielders, Gabriel Quak Jun Yi and Muhammad Hafiz Abu Sujad.
Sharing the view was former national coach B. Sathianathan who felt Kelantan have a better chance with their four import players supported by several young players.
“I can see Kelantan dominating the game tomorrow night but they have to be careful of the swift counter attacks of Lions XII and their set piece tactics which can prove to be dangerous.
“Kelantan should also watch out for Muhammad Khairul Amri who is in top form,” said Sathianathan, a former coach of the Malaysian Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, Harimau Malaya (national squad) coach, Dollah Salleh predicted the vociferous fans of The Red Warriors would hold the key to their team’s victory.
“The National Stadium will as usual be flooded with thousands of their supporters just as each time Kelantan qualified for a final,” Dollah said, predicting Kelantan to win by 2-1.
Kelantan which were the FA Cup champions in 2012 and 2013, entered the final on a 3-2 aggregate win over defending champions, Pahang in the semi-finals.
Lions XII made it to the final on away goals advantage after being tied 4-4 with Terengganu in the other semi-final last Saturday.