Thursday, 23 January 2014 | MYT 9:22 PM
Kelantan wary of Sarawak’s home record
Kelantan’s new signing Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud.
PETALING JAYA: Newly-promoted Sarawak were the only unbeaten side in the Premier League (18 wins, four draws) last season.
And they were almost unstoppable at home, winning 10 matches and drawing once at the State Stadium in Kuching.
Sarawak, under Dutchman Robert Alberts, emerged as Premier League champions and made heads turn with their run to the Malaysia Cup semi-finals.
In the Malaysia Cup, they were also unbeaten at home – winning all four matches.
Their fortress, however, was breached once – when they lost 2-0 to Kelantan in the second-leg of the FA Cup quarter-finals last April.
With a home record like that, no wonder Kelantan are a little pessimistic of their chances when they travel to Kuching for a Super League match on Saturday.
Kelantan team manager Azman Ibrahim is impressed with Sarawak’s strong home record.
“Even as a Premier League side, they defeated three Super League teams (Lions XII 2-1, Kedah 4-1 and Perak 6-1) en route to reaching the Malaysia Cup semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Pahang,” he said.
Azman also admitted that it won’t be easy for his new-look side to emulate their past success, especially in 2012 when they won the grand treble (Super League, FA Cup and Malaysia Cup).
“Things have changed a lot ... we have a new-look team and a new coach (Steve Darby) this season. It will take time to fine-tune them into a winning combination,” said Azman.
Azman, however, hoped that new signing Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud will continue to deliver the goods for the Red Warriors. The Lebanese had scored 20 goals when he first donned Kelantan colours in 2012.
“He (Ghaddar) scored both the goals in our opening 2-1 Super League win over Sime Darby FC last week,” said Azman.
“Now, I hope that the other new players will chip in with some goals as well.”
Kelantan are a team in transition this season, having lost seven first team players. They are Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Mohd Shakir Shaari (midfielders); Mohd Norfarhan Mohd, Dickson Nwakaeme (strikers); Azizi Matt Rose, S. Subramaniam and Daudsu Jamaluddin (defenders).
Last season, the Red Warriors lost two key players – striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and nippy winger Nurul Azwan Roya – and managed to retain only the FA Cup.
For this year’s challenge, the Kelantan FA (Kafa) signed three foreigners – strikers Mohd Ghaddar and Francis Doe (Liberia) and midfielder Mohamed Shawky (Egypt). Defender Obinne Nwaneri (Nigeria) has been retained from last season.