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Preview: MSL Matchday 3 – Kelantan vs Sarawak

Sarawak will be gunning for some form of salvation when they travel to take on Kelantan in Kota Bharu tonight, after a frustrating start to the season.

The Crocs are currently at the foot of the MSL table, being the only side without a point in the league. Kelantan on the other hands, despite all the negative headlines they’ve been associated with, are currently fourth on the table with 4 points and more importantly, two clean sheets.

Both sides also had varying fates in the FA Cup last week, which gives Datuk K. Rajagobal’s Sarawak an even bigger incentive to push hard tonight. So without wasting time, let’s take a look at what could be a key clash for both sides.


Photo Credit: Kelantan FA
Photo Credit: Kelantan FA

It’s baffling really. Four points from your first two games of the season. Victory in your first FA Cup tie of the year. The Red Warriors have stayed unbeaten so far, but K. Devan’s future appears to be hanging by a thread. Not that it’s a surprise, really. Tan Sri Annuar Musa started unleashing his skepticism during pre-season itself, almost as if Devan’s job is to be the designated punching bag, before he evolves into a scapegoat, eventually.

But truth is, while Devan’s recent records may be questionable, he was once the most coveted manager in the country – especially after his impressive stint with Selangor. His methods may be old school, but he’s got a football brain – many would vouch for him on that. Three games, two wins and an away draw. It doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, most teams would accept it blindly, if it was offered to them before the season.

But of course, they’ve got concerns to negotiate through. Goals seem be an issue. Two goals in three games is all they’ve achieved thus far and it’s not reassuring at all. So as much as Datuk Vida’s decision to drop comments on Kelantan’s footballing prowess is something I principally disagree with, there’s no denying the fact that Devan has got to get his forwards more involved in the game. Is it a case of confidence? Is it a case of chemistry? Or is it a case of nullification? That’s for Devan to ponder.


Photo Credit: Sarawak FA
Photo Credit: Sarawak FA

It was designed to be the talk of the town. King Raja would come in, silently build his empire and take the league by a storm, before redeeming himself in the eye of Malaysian football fans after his unceremonious exit from the national team. But thus far, Rajagobal has struggled. His team is winless in all competition. They almost ended the run in Ipoh last week, but a late comeback from the hosts allowed them to seal a 3-1 win after extra time, delivering a crushing blow to Sarawak’s squad morale.

Contrary to popular opinion, they haven’t been poor though. They’ve played some good football, only to be nullified by better opponents. But this week, there’s a clear cut opportunity for them to make it count. Kelantan, despite their strong start to the season, are under-pressure from statements made by their sponsor, Datuk Vida. K. Devan is a strong character. But even the strongest of characters have the capacity to crumble and make poor decisions. Sarawak know that, and they need to capitalize on that.

Gilmar and Syarul Azwari will be returning to a ground that’ll be familiar to them. The former in particular, was stupendous for them last year. There’s also an added incentive for him to deal Kelantan a major blow, considering his ongoing salary payment saga with the Red Warriors. This is a chance for him to make it count.


Photo Credit: Asiana.my
Photo Credit: Asiana.my

King Raja will want his men to bounce back and claim three points at Kota Bharu tonight. But as much as Kelantan have issues of their own to deal with, the Red Warriors have been a resilient side defensively. The partnership of Brendan Gan and Jonatan Lucca is becoming a real fulcrum in their midfield and they’ll be hard to break down. It’s a home game, they’re still unbeaten this year and they will be up against a side that’s winless in 2016. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to claim three points? Or is there more to Sarawak than meets the eye?

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