Football: Poor record, so what?

Football: Poor record, so what?
Kelantan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah.

One win in eight matches.

That is Kelantan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah's dreadful record against the LionsXII, over three seasons with three clubs - Negeri Sembilan, Perak and T-Team - from 2012 to 2014.

The solitary victory under his belt against the LionsXII came in a 1-0 Malaysia Cup triumph in 2013.

Tomorrow, the 62-year-old will take on the LionsXII for the ninth time with a fourth club, Kelantan, in the final of the Malaysian FA Cup at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

When asked about if his poor record will have any bearing on the result of the final, Azraai said curtly: "I won't lie to you. I don't like that record one bit. I don't really want to talk about it, actually.

"But I'll tell you one thing. When my boys get out at Bukit Jalil, that's all going to change. Nothing is certain in a one-off game like this, and it suits us.

"After tomorrow, it's not going to be 'just one win against the LionsXII' any more. It'll be two wins."

Azraai's confidence stems from the trump card up his sleeve - the battering ram of a striker in Iwuji Amamchi.

The 1.86-metre tall Nigerian arrived only last month, but he has made an immediate impact.

It is not difficult to see how his dribbling technique and ability to shoot with both feet have distinguished him from the rest of the big African imports among the Malaysian teams.

Amamchi's brace in the Red Warriors' 3-1 semi-final, second-leg victory over Pahang last Saturday bore testament to that.

For his first goal, he burst past a defender to slam home with his right foot.

His second was another beauty as he dribbled through the Pahang defence before rifling the ball in with his left.

Azraai made no secret of his game plan to use the burly forward to torment the LionsXII's defence tomorrow.

"We knew what kind of striker we were getting when we made a move for him. He has been huge for us. You could see how good he was last week," said Azraai.

SECRET WEAPON

"With a player like him, you know he'll get you the goals. He's got pace, power, body strength and an incredible build to go with all that."

Kelantan beat Sarawak 2-1 in the first round, before edging past second-tier Kuala Lumpur 1-0 in the next.

They cruised past Sime Darby 4-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, then came the Amamchi show in the second leg of the semi-final, where his brace helped Kelantan overcome a 1-0 first-leg deficit to qualify 3-2 on aggregate for the final.

The Red Warriors will start the match as the favourites since the majority of the 87,411-seater stadium will be filled with Malaysian fans.

But Azraai warns against complacency and is expecting a tough battle against Fandi Ahmad's men.

"I have huge respect for Fandi as a coach and for the LionsXII," he said. "You can ask me what I think are the LionsXII's weaknesses but, honestly, I can't find one.

"They are a good unit, they are good players. They wouldn't be in the final if they weren't.

"All we have to do is to remain tight, hold our line, don't let their wingers cut in and I think we'll be fine.

"In a match like this, in a neutral venue, there will be no such thing as advantage, despite us being Malaysians.

"I'm sure our fans will be louder than the Singaporeans, but the match isn't decided in the stands. It's decided down on the pitch." Unknown to many, Azraai is nicknamed "The Pink Man" for his penchant for the colour.

Wearing an unconventional combination of a pink shirt and black pants on the touchline, he led Kedah to the domestic Treble (Malaysian Super League, Malaysia Cup and the Malaysian FA Cup) in 2007 and 2008.

In 2011, he also won the Malaysia Cup with unfancied Negeri.

With huge support, an attacking threat in Amamchi and a lucky pink charm, no wonder he believes he can get win No. 2 against the LionsXII.


This article was first published on May 22, 2015.
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