MAKE MALAYSIA CUP GREAT AGAIN

Tereng­ganu coach Ir­fan wants tour­na­ment to re­gain pre­mier sta­tus

New Straits Times - - Sport - RE­PORTS BY AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my

TERENG­GANU coach Ir­fan Bakti wants the Malaysia Cup to re­gain its sta­tus as the pre­mier tour­na­ment in the coun­try. The Malaysia Cup used to be the fi­nal com­pe­ti­tion of the year, but it is now held in tan­dem with the Su­per League and Pre­mier League in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

The hec­tic sched­ule is also not help­ing some teams who have not been tak­ing the Malaysia Cup se­ri­ously as they are fo­cused on their league cam­paigns.

On Tues­day, Pre­mier League sides Kuala Lumpur, Tereng­ganu, Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan and Perak SEDC fielded mixed squads in the Malaysia Cup as the four are fight­ing for pro­mo­tion to the Su­per League next sea­son.

Perak SEDC, who made five changes, were ham­mered 6-0 by Pa­hang, while Tereng­ganu suf­fered a 5-0 thrash­ing from Darul Ta’zim.

Ne­gri, who had six Pres­i­dent’s Cup play­ers in the line-up, lost 4-1 to T-Team, but KL did bet­ter, los­ing only 2-0 to Perak in Ipoh.

Perak SEDC are the only Pre­mier League team who have qual­i­fied for the Malaysia Cup.

“I rested Fir­daus Faudzi, Is­mail Faruqi Asha’ri, Azi Shahril Azmi and Kipre Tchetche against Darul Ta’zim as we had no chance of mak­ing the last eight.

“I did not want to take the risk of hav­ing my regulars in­jured ahead of Friday’s Pre­mier League match against Kuan­tan.

“It was the same for KL, Ne­gri and Perak SEDC. They all rested key play­ers as all four teams are fo­cused on fin­ish­ing top two in the Pre­mier League for pro­mo­tion slots,” said Ir­fan yes­ter­day.

Ir­fan said the fix­ture con­ges­tion is the main rea­son teams are sac­ri­fic­ing their Malaysia Cup cam­paigns.

“The fix­tures are very con­gested…it was bet­ter be­fore. The Malaysia Cup should be held af­ter the com­ple­tion of the Su­per League and Pre­mier League.

“The Malaysia Cup used to be the most com­pet­i­tive tour­na­ment in the coun­try where every team will look for­ward for it. Now it has be­come a sideshow,” Ir­fan added.

Perak SEDC was at­tain­ing de­cent re­sults with seven wins, one draw and one de­feat with their ro­ta­tion pol­icy af­ter the break be­fore the thrash­ing by Pa­hang in Kuan­tan on Tues­day.

“In pre­vi­ous matches, I only made two or three changes in the Malaysia Cup but yes­ter­day, I fielded five fringe play­ers, and it turned out to be dis­as­trous as the team could not click,” said Perak SEDC coach Abu Bakar Fadzim.

“It is an eye opener, and I hope we will take the pos­i­tives from this match to bounce back in the next game.

“Frankly, I made th­ese changes as I did not want my regulars to suf­fer from in­juries be­fore Friday’s cru­cial league match against Kuala Lumpur.

“We had noth­ing to lose against Pa­hang as we had al­ready achieved our ob­jec­tive of qual­i­fy­ing for the quar­ter-fi­nals. But I ex­pected a bet­ter per­for­mance from the play­ers.

On the tight sched­ul­ing, Abu Bakar ad­mit­ted that it was men­tally and phys­i­cally stress­ful, but his play­ers had trained for it dur­ing the break in June.

“Any coach in Malaysia will com­plain about the fix­tures. But we can­not do any­thing about it as the fix­tures were drawn up at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son.

“We just have to adapt and make the best of things to achieve good re­sults. I am lucky that I have young play­ers who are adapt­able to the hec­tic sched­ule,” Abu Bakar added.

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