Terengganu head to Vietnam for pre-season friendlies

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After a heartbreaking Malaysia Cup final defeat to Perak in dramatic fashion last year Terengganu have not given up hope of winning at least one silverware plus a top three finish in the Malaysian Super League this season.

The Turtles have finalized their foreign quota with the signing of Uzbekistan international, midfielder Sanjar Shaakhmedov. The 29-year-old is expected to arrive in Kuala Terengganu.

Head coach Irfan Bakti is pleased with the new signing – “handpicked” by his assistant coach Kamaruddin Ahmad and Nafuzi Zain after watching the player in two league matches in Uzbekistan.

“Sanjar fits into the bill…he is the sort of player we need in the engine room. He was picked after closely scrutinizing his performance with his club Lokomotiv Tashkent,” said Irfan from Kuala Terengganu on Wednesday.

Lokomotiv Tashkent have won the Uzbekistan League for the last three season with Shaakhmedov playing a key role for the club.

The other foreigners in the Terengganu team are English-born midfielder Lee Tuck, Cambodian international Thierry Chanta Bin (midfielder); Serbian defender Igor Zonjic and striker Kipre Chetche of Ivory Coast. Tchetche is also the team captain.

“Let us not talk about last year’s disappointments. This is a new season and we have set new targets for the team…a top three finish in the league and to win at least one cup.

“At the same time we are gunning for a place in the AFC Cup…which means we need to be at our best. Everything is falling in place so far and I am pleased with the players we have picked to carry our challenge in 2019.”

Irfan also revealed that Terengganu will go on a three-match playing of Vietnam from January 13 to hone their skills and iron out the shortcomings in the team. Last year Terengganu went to Cambodia for pre-season friendlies.

The Turtles finished fifth in the league last season and failed to go beyond the third round in the FA Cup. However, the biggest disappointment and heartbreak for Irfan and company was losing the Malaysia Cup final to Perak on penalties after leading 2-0 at halftime.

However, Perak fought back for a 2-2 draw and send the match into extra time. Once again Terengganu went ahead for a 3-2 lead after six minutes of extra time before and own goal made it 3-3 for Perak.

In the penalty shootout Perak triumphed 4-1 in a match which also saw both teams reduced to 10 players after referee Suresh Jayaraman sacked a player each from Terengganu and Perak.

“We will use that heartbreak to build ourselves for the new season,” quipped Irfan before leaving for Gong Badak for the team’s training session. RIZAL ABDULLAH 

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