Monday, 25 August 2014 | MYT 9:50 PM
Premier League teams much tougher now, says Irfan
Felda United’s Edward Junior Wilson (left) is tackle by JDT II’s Mohd Izuan Jarudin during their Malaysia Cup match. - filepic
GEORGE TOWN: Felda United coach Irfan Bakti believes the Premier League teams are no longer pushovers in the Malaysia Cup.
Irfan has steered the FA Cup finalists Felda to the brink of the quarter-finals following their come-from-behind 3-2 win over defending champions Pahang in Kuantan last Saturday.
It was also sweet revenge for Felda, who had lost to the same opponents 2-1 in the 2014 FA Cup final in June.
Premier League champions Police are also going great guns to lead Group D, which also features the 32-time champions Selangor.
Two other Premier League outfits – Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II and Kedah – also recorded victories over Super League oppositions last weekend.
JDT II downed the 2013 Super League champs Lions XII 2-1 at home while Kedah defeated Sarawak by the same scoreline in Kuching.
“The days when Premier League teams were just making up the numbers in the Malaysia Cup are gone. We are no longer the whipping boys and the standard between the top flight teams and the top teams in the second division has narrowed immensely,” said Irfan on Monday.
“After reaching the FA Cup final this year and put on a strong show in the Malaysia Cup, Felda have proven that we are one of the top teams in the country.”
Felda lead Group A on seven points, one ahead of Pahang, whom they take on at the Selayang Stadium on Tuesday.
Irfan has warned his players not to be complacent against the Elephants, and to display the same resilience which brought them three points in Kuantan.
Said Irfan: “Felda hold a slight advantage in the quarter-finals race because two of our remaining three matches are at home. My players showed their fighting character in coming back twice from behind in Kuantan.
“I personally felt that Pahang did not play to their true potential because they were not expecting Felda to pose a tough challenge.
“But we can expect them to come all out tomorrow (today) to avenge their home defeat. This will be the third meeting between Pahang and Felda in 2014, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well.”
Irfan added that Felda’s main focus is to qualify for the knockout stage, and not to be group champions.
The other two Group A teams – JDT II (3 points) and Lions XII (1), are still in the running to secure a top two finish.