By Ahmad Erwan Othman
The two unstoppable forces of Malaysian football this year, Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan, are set to collide at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday in a match observers predict to be a heated contest, with the winner emerging most probably by a thin margin.
The chances are at best 50-50 based on both teams’ performance throughout the season, they say.
Kedah coach Wan Jamak Wan Hassan said Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu are strong teams in their own right, with their own tactical strategies and on top of that, both have players capable of taking and absorbing immense pressure.
“Honestly, I have no favourite teams and it’s difficult to predict which one of these two will eventually emerge the winner; both teams have shown a balanced performance overall.
“I foresee a thin margin, may be at 1-0 or 2-1 score line,” he told Bernama when contacted.
Terengganu, he said, have shown depth this season. Under the tutelage of coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim, Terengganu have been unstoppable thus far, not even by 32-time Malaysia Cup champion Selangor, and beating defending champions Kelantan at the semi-final.
“Terengganu are on the right track. As this season’s FA Cup champions, the fans are looking at the team to bring home the Cup,” the former national coach said, naming Joseph Kallang Tie, Abdul Manaf Mamat, Abdul Hadi Yahya and Mohammad Ashaari Samsudin as the ‘danger’ men.
Negeri Sembilan are also a force to be reckoned with, having shown consistency by emerging the runners-up in last season’s Malaysia Cup and champions for the 2010 FA Cup.
“They have seniors whom the coach Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah can rely on, among them national player Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Hairudin Omar and Mohd Shukor Adan,” he said.
Felda United coach E. Elavarasan said it would be an explosive final.
“Negeri Sembilan would want to feel the glory of winning the Cup, which they last won in 2009. Terengganu last won the Cup in 2001 and they want to add another to feather in their cap this year after winning the FA Cup,” he said.
Newly-appointed Armed Forces coach B. Sathianathan foresees Negeri Sembilan making a surprise in the final with the presence of versatile players like S. Kunanlan and Shahurain Abu Samah.
“Frankly speaking, Negeri Sembilan is highly committed and capable to win the match. In Kunanlan, they have a player with speed and in Shahurain, they have a trusted hitman, who scores an average of one goal in each Malaysia Cup match,” he said.
Negeri Sembilan’s propensity for short passes and not merely relying on solid defence and counter-attacks will make a lot of difference in the game, he said.
“But Terengganu is also a strong team; and if Negeri Sembilan eventually emerge as the winner, it’s going to be by a slim margin, say 2-1 or 1-0,” he said.