By ERIC SAMUEL
PETALING JAYA: Armed Forces do not want a repeat of their embarrassing exit in the first round of the FA Cup last season.
But the soldiers have a tall order against five-time winners Selangor in the opening round at the Shah Alam Stadium tomorrow.
Last season, Forces went on a big recuitment drive despite playing in the second-tier Premier League. The team under coach B. Sathianathan featured several big star signings but were surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Perak in the FA Cup. Forces, however, recovered and went on to win the Premier League title and promotion to the top flight.
Forces centreback Irwan Fadly Idrus said it would be a tragedy to go down in the first round again.
“It is a tough draw but we are a stable side this season. We have developed a good understanding with one another. I don’t think we will face an early exit this time. Of course, Selangor are a good side, too, and coach Irfan Bakti is a good tactician,” said Irwan.
“But judging at the progress we have made so far this year, I have full confidence that we will go far in the FA Cup. There is more depth and the team are united,” said Irwan.
Forces are going great guns in the Super League with 10 points from five matches. They are second in the 12-team standings with three wins, a draw and a defeat. Selangor, also with 10 points, are third with an inferior goal difference.
Sathianathan will once again rely on evergreen striker Marlon Alex James of St Vincent and the Grenadines to get the goals. The 36-year-old James has already hit the back of the net seven times.
Besides James, Forces also have Argentine Bruno Martelotto and international Hairuddin Omar in attack. The midfield is ably managed by Venice Elphi, R. Surendren and Christie Jayaseelan.
Irwan credited new signing centreback Mohd Shukor Adan for adding steel to the backline.
“Shukor has been a pillar of strength in defence. He can also play in midfield. With the talent in the team, we should do well this season,” said Irwan.
Irwan can also be counted on to score goals. He scored the equaliser from a free-kick in the 1-1 draw against Kelantan in the season-opener Charity Shield, which Forces won 4-3 in a penalty shootout. He also scored in their 2-2 draw against Johor Darul Takzim last week.
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