Sunday, 24 August 2014 | MYT 9:15 PM
JDT and Kelantan poised to earn final eight spot
DT's Marcos Antonio(left) tussles for the all with Kelantan's Forkey Doe during their Malaysia Cup tie at Larkin Stadium, Johor Baru last month. - File pic
GEORGE TOWN: Group C’s Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Kelantan are favourites to become the first teams to book their Malaysia Cup quarter-final spots on Tuesday.
JDT and Kelantan won away from home against Penang and Armed Forces respectively on Saturday night.
And with the return matches at home against the same opponents tomorrow, the odds are on the group pacesetters to book early tickets to the knockout phase.
JDT and Kelantan only need simple victories to enter the last eight.
The Southern Tigers turned on the power to beat the Panthers 3-1 at the City Stadium, with goals from Mohd Amri Yahyah, Safiq Rahim and Jorge Diaz. The Super League champions currently top the group on seven points, one ahead of the Red Warriors.
Kelantan were equally impressive in their 3-0 dismantling of the soldiers at the Selayang Stadium, courtesy of a brace from skipper Mohd Badhri Radzi and a Francis Doe strike.
However, JDT coach Bojan Hodak does not want to think about the quarter-finals prematurely.
“It was a good win for JDT and we are taking it match by match. We were impressive in the first half against Penang and could have scored more goals. We stopped playing as effectively and handed the initiative to our opponents after the break,” said Hodak after the Penang match.
“We will play Penang again after two days of rest, and it is important that we collect three points at home.”
At the halfway mark in the group stage, Armed Forces (two points) and Penang (one) are still winless in Group C, and their chances to progress look slim.
Despite the bleak outlook, Penang coach K. Devan refuses to throw in the towel.
“JDT and Kelantan have opened up a sizable gap and are favourites to qualify,” said Devan on Sunday.
“Penang’s fate depends on the outcome of Tuesday’s game in Johor Baru. It is a difficult task to beat JDT at their home ground, but anything is possible in football.
“If we can stay alive in Johor Baru, then we have some hope in the last two matches at home (against Kelantan and Armed Forces). Looking at the quality of the teams in our group, it was always an uphill task for Penang. We now need to produce good performances and results to remain in the competition.”
Besides JDT and Kelantan, the only other side with a chance to book their Malaysia Cup quarter-final spot during the midweek matches are Group D leaders Police.
The cops, who thrashed T-Team 4-1 at the Selayang Stadium last Saturday, will qualify if they beat the same opponents in Kuala Terengganu on Wednesday.