Terengganu banking on fan power to overcome Kedah
REPORTS BY DEVINDER SINGH firstname.lastname@example.org
TERENGGANU coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim has drilled into his team the need to maintain focus “for an entire game” as they seek to overturn a 1-0 FA Cup semifinal deficit against Kedah in the second leg in Kuala Terengganu today.
A lapse in concentration saw Terengganu concede two late goals in the 2-1 defeat to Sabah in the Premier League last weekend which saw the promotion chasers slip to third in the standings.
Terengganu, who have not kept a clean sheet in their last five matches — which coincidentally were all played away — will relish a return to the cramped Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium where they can count on vocal crowd support to spur them to their first FA Cup final since 2011.
But to do so, Terengganu have to prevent Kedah from adding to their aggregate advantage by cutting out the kind of defensive lapses which has seen them lose to Sabah and Universiti Teknologi Mara (4-0).
“That is a problem which has been happening too many times lately,” Irfan, referring to the Sabah setback, said yesterday.
“The lack of concentration should not be happening. We have to be focused at all times and cannot afford to be careless against Kedah.”
Irfan will be forced to rejig his defence in any case with left-back Adib Aizuddin Latif suspended while striker Federico Falcone is doubtful after going off late in the Sabah match with an injury.
But Lutfulla Turaev and Latif Suhaimi, who missed the first leg through suspension, will strengthen Terengganu significantly while Ismail Faruqi Ashari is back from injury.
While recognising the need to score to have any chance of advancing, Irfan said two-time FA Cup winners Terengganu also need to be careful not to concede given the firepower that Kedah possess.
Kedah put four goals past PKNS in a Super League match on Tuesday but Irfan can also draw encouragement from the fact that Nidzam Adzha Yusoff ’s side also conceded four times.
However, Kedah had a few players missing in midweek with Liridon Krasniqi and Rizal Ghazali suspended and Zachary Anderson suspended while Baddrol Bakhtiar and Syazwan Zainon started from the bench.
“We are playing at home after a long time (since April 7) and we will use the support of the crowd to our advantage.”
Nidzam is sweating on the availability of centre-back Anderson and goalkeeper Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim, who had to be substituted against PKNS, for today’s match where they are bidding to qualify for their first FA Cup final since 2010.
With Syawal Nordin filling in at the back, Kedah’s porous defence was punished by PKNS with substitute goalkeeper Farhan Abu Bakar allowing the ball to squirm under his body and into goal for PKNS’ third goal.
“There were a lot of mistakes we made and I don’t know how we conceded three goals in the second half,” said Nidzam, who will be without Halim Saari for the rest of the season after the midfielder underwent an operation yesterday on a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
Terengganu coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim (centre) and his men are hoping their fans will turn up in full force to rally them back from a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final deficit when they meet Kedah in Kuala Terengganu today.