Felda United coach Sathi­anathan seeks con­sis­tency af­ter bounce­back sea­son

New Straits Times - - Sport - DEVINDER SINGH devinder@nst.com.my

B. SATHI­ANATHAN is­sued a warn­ing to Felda United not to re­peat the mis­takes of last sea­son if the club in­tend to be­come an es­tab­lished force in Malaysian football.

The former na­tional coach still can­not un­der­stand why Felda changed half of the team that fin­ished run­ners-up to Jo­hor Darul Ta’zim in the Su­per League last year and qual­i­fied for the AFC Cup.

The ef­fect was that Felda made a poor start to the 2017 sea­son, los­ing three of their first four Su­per League matches, and it was only when Sathi­anathan was hired to re­place Azmi Mo­hamed as coach in Fe­bru­ary did the club fi­nally turn their sea­son around.

Felda have moved up to third in the league and play de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Kedah in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup semi-fi­nals in Jengka to­mor­row.

Sathi­anathan said Kedah should be viewed as a model on how to sus­tain a team ca­pable of chal­leng­ing for honours ev­ery year.

“The Kedah team have hardly changed in the last three, four years with the ex­cep­tion of one or two for­eign play­ers,” said Sathi­anathan dur­ing a Felda train­ing ses­sion in Bangi yes­ter­day.

“They have been to­gether for a long time and that is an ad­van­tage. We, on the other hand, have made whole­sale changes.

“From fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Su­per League to sud­denly drop­ping 11, 12 play­ers. I don’t know who made that de­ci­sion.

“That is not healthy if you want to com­pete strongly. A team who re­leases 11, 12 play­ers don’t have the am­bi­tion to be­come strong. When you fin­ish run­ners-up, you should main­tain the team.

“But af­ter los­ing so many play­ers, you saw what hap­pened to Felda at the start of this sea­son. So in the sec­ond round af­ter we brought in qual­ity play­ers, you saw the dif­fer­ence.

“In our last 10 games, we won eight and drew one (in the league). Kedah have this type of con­sis­tency and that is why they are al­ways chal­leng­ing for tro­phies.”

Felda’s prepa­ra­tion for to­mor­row’s match at the Tun Ab­dul Razak Sta­dium has been ham­pered by the loss of mid­fielder Stu­art Wark to a knee in­jury.

How­ever, Sathi­anathan said Felda still have a good chance of mak­ing the fi­nal pro­vided they do not re­peat the mis­takes of the quar­ter-fi­nals, when they lost to Perak State Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion 3-1 at home in the first leg be­fore win­ning the re­turn 4-1 in Shah Alam.

“We need to win the first leg to have a chance of get­ting to the fi­nal,” said Sathi­anathan, who pre­vi­ously won the Malaysia Cup with Ke­lan­tan in 2010 and fin­ished run­ners-up with Armed Forces in 2012.

“We can’t af­ford to lose 3-1 like what hap­pened in the quar­ter­fi­nals be­cause against Kedah we won’t be able to over­come the deficit in the sec­ond leg. That is a guar­an­tee.”

Thi­ago Au­gusto Fer­nan­des (left) scored five goals in the Malaysia Cup last year as he helped Kedah win the ti­tle while on loan from Felda United.

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