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Monday June 23, 2008
By ERIC SAMUEL
PETALING JAYA: High-riding Kedah remained in line for an unprecedented second consecutive treble in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) this season.
And going by the spirited and determined performances of the Canaries, especially by their young players, there is little doubting their ability to retain the Malaysia Cup as well after having succeeded in the defence of the FA Cup by beating four-time winners Selangor 3-2 in a nail-biting final at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
In the Super League, they had emerged as champions again convincingly.
Coach Mohd Azraai Khor praised his young team for the achievements and felt that bigger goals were in store ahead of them.
“I am glad that the boys have kept the treble hopes alive even though we went into the FA Cup final with nine players from the President’s Cup (Under-23) squad. And the three goals we scored were from the Under-23 boys (Mohd Fadly Baharom, Mohd Khyril Muhymeen and Syafiq Jamal),” he said.
Baddrol Bakhtiar was the other Under-23 squad player in the starting line-up. Those on the bench were Khairul Helmi Johari, Mohd Nizam Mansor, Abdul Hadi Hamid, Mohd Hazwan Zainun and Mohd Ridzuan Nawi.
Kedah had to make do without their St Vincent and Grenadines duo of striker Marlon James and central defender Bernard Huggins, who are on national duty in the Concacaf qualifying rounds of the 2010 World Cup.
“We were handicapped in so many ways in the final. We were without our influential foreigners and playing against Selangor on their home ground. We were also down to 10 men for the last 15 minutes of the game after Mat Sabree Abu was sent off. But the boys raised their game,” Azraai.
Kedah skipper Victor Andrag said that this was the best squad assembled since he started playing for the state senior side eight years ago.
“The commitment showed by the players, especially the younger ones, has been instrumental in Kedah’s strong showing over the last couple of seasons,” said Victor.
Victor added that it was time for them to look at the bigger stage, the AFC Cup in which Kedah are through to the quarter-finals.
“We have not set any target for the AFC Cup but we should aim to make an impact in this tournament,” he said.
Selangor coach Dollah Salleh rued the disallowed headed goal by national striker Mohd Safee Sali five minutes from time when the Red Giants were trailing 2-3.
“It’s one of those things. The television replay showed that the ball had crossed the line but we have to accept that the referee’s decision is final,” he said.
But Dollah conceded that Kedah were worthy winners with their fast attacking brand of football.
“Our defence was not up to the mark,” he said.
Prices for tickets to the finals were doubled to RM40 (grandstand) and RM20 (terrace) and the match drew a crowd of only about 20,000 spectators to the 70,000-capacity stadium.
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