Malaysia Cup: Kedah eyeing LionsXII's scalp

Malaysia Cup: Kedah eyeing LionsXII's scalp
Kedah coach Ahmad Shafie

SINGAPORE - The LionsXII may have an unbeaten record at Jalan Besar, winning 10 and drawing one out of 11 home league games, en route to winning the Malaysian Super League title.

But Kedah, who finished fourth in the second division and are the lowest-ranked team in the Malaysia Cup, have cause to be optimistic about their Group D clash tonight.

Of all the Malaysian teams the LionsXII have faced in the last two seasons, the Canaries are the only team they have yet to beat, following draws at Alor Star and Jalan Besar.

In the Singapore leg, Kedah also became the only team to score three goals at Fortress Jalan Besar.

And after a week of training on artificial turf back home, Kedah coach Ahmad Shafie told The New Paper: "I think with the training we have had, we can match LionsXII. If we perform to our potential, we can bring back points."

He then pointed to the 2-2 FA Cup draw with Johor Darul Takzim, who finished third in the top division, as the benchmark he would like his team to aim for.

"We took a 2-0 lead and we showed we can match the best teams in the competition," said Ahmad.

Fall from grace

However, he expressed disappointment at how his team have fallen from grace after the highs of back-to-back Treble-winning seasons in 2007 and 2008.

He added: "Our problem is a lack of consistency. A lot of times, we should have gotten the points, but we ended up without even one.

"It's not that we can't play. We just need to be more focused and consistent."

Incredibly, Kedah chairman Paduka Mukhriz Mahathir has set a Malaysia Cup final target, but Ahmad prefers to take it step by step and aim to progress from a group that also includes Sarawak and Perak.

Key to Kedah's hopes will be forward Khyril Muhymeen, who was on the scoresheet when his club last visited the LionsXII.

The 26-year-old told TNP: "We cannot be afraid or negative.

"We are excited to kickstart our Malaysia Cup campaign and we will definitely give the LionsXII a good fight and try to keep our unbeaten record against them."

The hosts will be up against another familiar face in 33-year-old Chilean midfielder Nelson San Martin, who played for Home United in 2010.

He said: "I know Isa Halim, a very good defensive midfielder, and Shahril Ishak, who can kill teams with his eye for goal, because we were teammates before.

"But Kedah have improved towards the end of the season when we won seven out of our last nine games.

"We are a passing and attacking team now and we want to spring a surprise and qualify for the knockout rounds."

"I think with the training we have had, we can match LionsXII. If we perform to our potential, we can bring back points.

"Our problem is a lack of consistency. A lot of times, we should have gotten the points, but we ended up without even one.

"It's not that we can't play. We just need to be more focused and consistent."

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