New Kedah coach aiming for Malaysia Cup berth

GEORGE TOWN: Kedah’s new caretaker coach Tan Cheng Hoe feels it is probably too late for the Red Eagles to eye promotion to the Super League this year.

Cheng Hoe, who was the assistant to national coach K. Rajagopal, took over the Kedah head coach duties from Australian David Mitchell on Thursday.

Mitchell’s contract was not terminated, but he was instructed by the Kedah FA (KFA) exco to take a “rest” following unsatisfactory results in the first half of the Premier League.

Kedah, who were expected to be among the frontrunners for a top two spot which guarantees promotion to the Super League, were fifth at the halfway mark of the Premier League. Boasting high-profile local players like Baddrol Bakhtiar and Muhd Khyril Muhymeen, the northern state side notched five wins, one draw and five defeats in the first half of the league campaign.

Before last night’s match against UiTM, which Kedah won 1-1, the Red Eagles had trailed leaders Police by 13 points and second-placed Penang by 12.

“With just 11 matches left in the second round, it is a tall order to expect Kedah to catch up with the top two. It is more realistic to aim for a top four finish and qualify for the Malaysia Cup,” said Cheng Hoe.

“In the short period of time accorded to me, I will do my best to improve Kedah’s current position. We have both young and experienced talents in the squad and I need everybody to step up and deliver more consistent performances and results until the end of the season.”

Sitting on the Kedah bench is not a new experience for the former national player, who served as an assistant coach to Jorgen Larsen (2002-03), Mirandinha (2004) and Mohd Azraai Khor (2004-09). But this is his first stint as an M-League team head coach.

“I am thankful to KFA for giving me the opportunity and trust to take up such a big responsibility. Everyone, especially the supporters, need to be patient as this youthful squad needs time to blossom into a title-winning side.”

KFA have also terminated the contract of midfielder Adriano Pellegrino, who did not play a single minute of competitive football in Malaysia since being signed in January.

The 29-year-old Australian was not cleared to play by FAM because he featured for an academy team in the New South Wales league prior to signing for Kedah.

The FAM rules state that all import players must have played in a top-level national league immediately before playing for a Malaysian side.

KFA tried to skirt around the issue by loaning Pellegrino out to play in the Cambodian League for four months. However, a new problem cropped up when it was found that Pellegrino played in Cambodia without an International Transfer Certificate.

And 31-year-old Brazilian midfielder Aender Naves Mesquita, who featured for Hong Kong’s South China FC last year, has been signed on as replacement. The other three foreigners on Kedah’s books are Billy Mehmet (Ireland), Adam Griffiths (Australia) and Jose Gomez (Spain).

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