Match Preview Super League Vs Melaka United
It has been a tiring journey for Kuala Lumpur City, and we are now on the last leg of four consecutive away visits in 15 days involving close to 17,000km’s of travel, when we take on Melaka United at the Hang Jebat Stadium tomorrow night. Despite the gruelling challenge that would make even the producers of the Amazing Race reality TV show proud, head coach Bojan’s men have coped admirably and delivered the goods, seemingly oblivious to fatigue with an encouraging 2-2 draw in Likas against Sabah to kick-off our globetrotting, followed by a superb 3-1 triumph over ATK Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup East Region (Inter-Zone) semi-final in Kolkata, India, and then avenging our home loss to Sri Pahang earlier in the season with a 2-0 win in Kuantan last Sunday. While this fixture vs the Hang Tuah’s represents closure of our current excursions from Cheras, more importantly it is the beginning of our final assault on the league. At the start of this season, among our ambitions for 2022 was to do better than 2021 in the league standings, and with 5 matches remaining in the Super League, the City Boys have an outside chance to finish as high as fourth. Realistically, fifth position, where we are at now, is within our own hands, even though Kedah DA are just a point behind and having a game in hand. Hence, bringing home three points from Krubong/Paya Rumput would almost be like a six-pointer, launching us to being within a point of Terengganu, and boosting our credentials as a solid outfit in preparation for the defence of our Malaysia Cup soon.
Here’s what the final run-in looks like for us, the Canaries, Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan.
KLC, currently in 5th, played 17 matches, 25pts, goal difference -3
vs Melaka Utd. (9th), away on 15/9/2022,
vs Penang (12th/last), away on 1/10/2022
vs Sarawak Utd. (11th), home on 7/10/2022
vs Terengganu (4th), home on 11/10/2022
vs Petaling Jaya City (10th), away on 15/10/2022
Kedah DA, currently in 6th, played 16 matches, 24pts, goal difference -2
vs Selangor (8th), home on 14/9/2022
vs Petaling Jaya City (10th), home on 1/10/2022
vs Johor DT (1st), home on 4/10/2022
vs Negeri Sembilan (3rd), away on 7/10/2022
vs Johor DT (1st), away on 11/10/2022
vs Terengganu (4th), home on 15/10/2022
Terengganu, currently in 4th, played 17 matches, 29pts, goal difference +9
vs Penang (12th/last), home on 14/9/2022
vs Sabah (2nd), home on 1/10/2022
vs Melaka Utd. (9th), away on 7/10/2022
vs KLC (5th), away on 11/10/2022
vs Kedah DA (6th), away on 15/10/2022
Negeri Sembilan, currently in 3rd, played 18 matches, 35pts, goal difference +11
vs Johor DT (1st), away on 1/10/2022
vs Kedah DA (6th), home on 7/10/2022
vs Melaka Utd. (9th), home on 11/10/2022
vs Sri Pahang (7th), away on 15/10/2022
Melaka Utd. just like our previous opponents, S Pahang also underwent a change of head coach, when Risto Vidakovic paid the price of his outspokenness on salary issues affecting the team back in April and soon after their 0-2 loss to us in Cheras, he was unceremoniously rested by the Hang Tuah’s management as the first casualty in the Super League this year, eventually leading to his parting of ways by mutual consent. Highly experienced Asri Ninggal, Risto’s assistant, stepped up as the interim coach and their fortunes, on the pitch at least, immediately changed for the better. The Green And White, snapped-up their first win in 2022 in Asri’s first match in-charge, a 2-1 away result over 10-men S Pahang, then followed that with a 3-2 come from behind victory at Kedah DA, edging Petaling Jaya City 2-1 in the FA Cup Second Round homer, then holding Negeri Sembilan at home to a scoreless draw. Their first loss under Asri’s guardianship surprisingly came against lowly Sarawak United, who shocked them with a late winner, but they recovered superbly to hold Johor DT 1-1 in front of a packed house in their imposing Hang Jebat Stadium, the second time that the Johoreans were held in the Super League after S Pahang drew 2-2 with them before that. They got the scalp of Selangor with a 2-0 triumph and battled to hold PJ City 2-2 before respectfully bowing out at the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup to Johor DT, 1-2, who needed an injury time winner to dispose of their southern neighbours. In the next three matches, they thrashed Penang 4-1 and but threw away a 2-0 lead to allow S Pahang a 2-2 draw with only 3 minutes remaining. In between those two fixtures at home, they fell to a 1-2 heartbreaking loss in Likas to Sabah, conceding the Rhinos winner in injury time. Melaka Utd.’s off field problems as was highlighted by Vidakovic in April, came back to viciously haunt them since the end of August when they collapsed to heavy away defeats at the hands of Johor DT and Terengganu and at home vs Kedah DA, conceding 12 goals without reply in those matches. Prior to that the Hang Tuah’s only lost twice under Asri’s initial run of 10 matches that also consisted of 4 wins and 4 draws. Rumour has it that their foreign legion have refused (or rather are injured?) to take field until those issues are sorted and this problem has greatly affected their dressing room. The southerners, much like us, struggle in front of goal, averaging 1.17 goals per game in the league, heavily dependent on their imports who have contributed 22 of their 27 goals this season. None of them featured in their last match, a 0-3 loss to Kedah DA, with the last time all of them were together on the pitch was against Sabah on the last day of July 2022. Nigerian-Bahraini Ifedayo Olusegun, the top scorer of the league the past two years, remains their biggest goal threat with 7 goals, followed by Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Oti with 5 goals. Forwards Haitian Sony Norde and Brazilian Adriano Aparecido Narcizo have scored 4 goals each, and even young Filipino defender Justin Baas has 2 goals to his name, matching veteran striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha’s tally. At the back, their defence constantly leaks goals, with only two clean sheets in 2021, keeping Negeri Sembilan and Selangor at bay in their homeground. The last three league fixtures skewed their average of goals conceded in Asri’s tenure from 1.40 per match to 2 goals per match. Currently 9 points behind us, in their 12 matches in Krubong/Paya Rumput in 2022, the Malaccans have a win-draw-loss record of 4-4-4 including in the FA Cup, and this includes a 3-4-3 record under Asri. When armed with their foreigners, Melaka Utd. are by no means a walk in the park. They are after all the team that was deprived of a chance at making history, a skied penalty attempt the difference between the us and them, during our Malaysia Cup semi-final 5-3 penalty shoot-out at the Hang Jebat Stadium, after it ended 2-2 on aggregate,
While the City Boys got away with maximum points in our last outing in Kuantan, the heavy pitch and difficult conditions during the encounter apart from all the travelling endured recently would have only caused more exhaustion to tired bodies. It is a time for mind over matter, and the true hallmark of a champion is to power on mentally despite being physically burnt out. Once again the situation begs the man management of Bojan & Co., but with a small squad perhaps Bojan may convince the regulars to soldier on for the last roll of the dice, get these three important points for our league ambitions then reward the team with a longer period of rest and recovery, a chance to refresh before the next mission in the AFC Cup 2022 : the East Region (Inter-Zone) final. Just like S Pahang’s advantage last Sunday, Melaka Utd. welcome us being the fresher of the two, having had 2 days more of recovery from their loss (0-3 to Kedah DA) last Friday. They are also playing at home and will be looking to regain plenty of lost pride caused by their problems that have exploded in the past couple of weeks.
Thursday’s meet will be the 29th time both teams will be meeting each other since the beginning of the Super League & Premier League divisions in 2004. The overall record slightly favours the City Boys with 12 wins over the Hang Tuah’s 9, with 7 matches ending in draws. In the 13 away visits against the Hang Tuah during that period, we have come out successful in 5 matches, drawing three and losing five (victories in penalty shoot-outs during knock-out stage matches do not count). However, our last outright triumph there came in 2018, when a brace from Indra Putra and further goals from Zaquan Adha and Guilherme de Paulo gave us a 4-2 win, cancelling out Ifedayo’s twin strike in the Super League match which also saw Zhafri being sent-off. That was our first win since 2014’s 2-1 win when both teams were plying the depths of the Malaysian football pyramid at the third level FAM Cup. In 2021, we met them twice at the Hang Jebat Stadium, losing 1-2 in the league, Zhafri scoring a late consolation goal after Alex Goncalves double penalty strikes, and later in the Malaysia Cup semi-final second leg it was a 1-1 draw courtesy of Partiban’s opener being replied by Syamim Yahya’s equaliser forcing the match that ended 2-2 on aggregate to go into extra-time. Penalties then ensued where we edged them 5-3 to go to the final. Last April in Cheras, two first half goals from skipper Paulo Josue gave us our first league win of the year when the opening three matches before that failed to do so.
Nabil, who is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee, remains the only player with a serious injury. Paulo Josue, Romel, Partiban and Kenny are nursing minor injuries but should travel for the match.
The Super League Match Day 15 fixture between Melaka United and Kuala Lumpur City is on Thursday, September 15, 2022, at 9PM (2100hrs) at the Hang Jebat Stadium, Krubong/Paya Rumput.
Tickets for the Super League match against Melaka United are available at the following link, https://www.tickethotline.com.my/
For Season Ticket Holders (B2 City Boys), enjoy direct access for purchase through the Club without the hassle and limitations of the online system (Contact Shamim for details).