- By JOSEPH KAOS Jr -
KUALA TERENGGANU: Malaysian football’s “East Coast Derby” between Kelantan and Terengganu in Kota Baru tonight promises to be a fiery affair.
Kelantan, the 2012 treble winners, have not lived up to their billing this season and will definitely go all out to beat their neighbours in front of their fans.
Besides losing to the Armed Forces in the Charity Shield, Kelantan have only managed to win once in the Super League and are now languishing in eighth place with six points after six matches.
The Red Warriors were also beaten 2-0 by Selangor on Saturday, a defeat which forced the Kelantan FA to restructure the team management and to reconsider the status of certain players.
Former team manager Azman Ibrahim was reinstated to his old role, taking over from head coach Bojan Hodak who has been asked to concentrate solely on coaching.
Hodak, however, is not feeling the heat and admits that he does not feel pressured by the situation and still believes he can turn things around. “The derby is going to be tough match but it is one we must win and we are going all out to ensure that,” said the Croatian, adding that playing at home will be an advantage.
“Against Selangor, we let in two “cheap” goals which cost us the game. But after making some changes and introducing Mohd Badhri Radzi and Keita Mandjou in the second half, we played better but just could not score,” he said.
Hodak said he will instruct his men to attack from the start and he will once again rely on his under-performing Guinea striker Mandjou, who has yet to find the net this season.
“Mandjou is suffering from a lack of confidence and that is why I did not start him against Selangor. But in the second half, he played well and deserves to start against Terengganu.
As for Terengganu, coach E. Elavarasan will have to cope without several key players and will be approaching the derby with caution.
The Turtles finally notched their first win last Friday after defeating Perak 2-0 at home in what was their finest display this season.
However, they will be without maverick midfielder Ismail Faruqi Ashari due to a red card suspension while Cameroonian striker Jean-Emmanuel Owona might not feature because of a thigh injury sustained in the Perak match.
“Our chances of winning are 50-50. I would love to be able to keep the same line-up from the previous match but because of Ismail’s suspension I have to make a few changes,” said Elavarasan.
“I hope my players will not be over-confident after their win against Perak. They need to be cautious because Kelantan will likely go all out to win following their loss to Selangor,” said Elavarasan.
The former Felda United coach will probably look to national player Ashaari Samsudin, who scored against Perak, to deliver against Kelantan tonight.
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