Getting ready: Kedah players going through their paces during a training session at the Shah Alam Stadium yesterday. They take on Pahang in the FA Cup final tonight. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star.
Kedah have won the FA Cup three times. Pahang have won it twice.
So, there’s not much to separate these two when they meet in the FA Cup final for the first time at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight.
If there’s anything that separates them, then it would be the two coaches.
While Kedah coach Nidzam Adzha Yusoff – albeit in a caretaker role – is looking for his first title, Pahang’s Dollah Salleh is a man with the golden touch.
Dollah has won multiple titles in the M-League during his stints with Selangor, MBPJ, Pahang and Police. The only time he failed to win any silverware was during his stint with Perlis last year.
But, being the wily coach that he is, the 53-year-old Dollah prefers to make Kedah the favourites as “they are making their third appearance in a Cup final in three years”.
“Nizam may be a new coach, but Kedah have played in the last two Malaysia Cup finals and they have almost the same squad ... so, they have an advantage over us in the final,” said Dollah in the pre-match press conference yesterday.
“I may have won titles as a coach, but I have only been with this Pahang squad for five months ... we’re still not at our best yet.
“As for Kedah, you can see that they have been very consistent in the last three years.”
Nidzam, who was Dollah’s junior when they were in the national team in the 90s, agreed with his Pahang counterpart, saying “the result of the match is in the hands of our players”.
“A coach is not really a factor in the final. It’s the efforts of 11 players on the pitch that can make the difference.
“I’m just continuing the work of our previous head coach (Tan Cheng Hoe) ... I hope we can go all the way and lift the Cup,” said the 49-year-old Nizam.
“The players are looking comfortable and don’t look to be under pressure to play at the Shah Alam Stadium. I think we are well prepared for the final.”
Both teams have met in the Super League this season, with the new-look Pahang suffering a 4-1 loss to Kedah at the Darulaman Stadium on Feb 11.
Both coaches, however, acknowledged that that’s history.
“That was a league game ... this is a Cup final. They are totally different ball games,” said Nidzam.
“In the final, we need to cut down on our mistakes, otherwise Pahang will punish us.”
Dollah, meanwhile, feels that Kedah’s strength lies in their midfield.
He picked Kosovan Liridon Krasniqi and Brazilian Sandro Mendonca as the players who can change the game.
“Their midfield is their biggest strength and Liridon is in top form right now,” said Dollah.
“But I believe in my players ... I just hope we have a good game tomorrow (today).”
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