* We do not fear the big crowd
* We want match officials to be fair
This Saturday’s Malaysia Cup biggie at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru between Premier League’s Felda United and reigning Super League champions Johor Darul Takzim is the talk of the football fraternity.
Felda United take a one goal cushion going into the return-leg semi-final clash after scoring a stunning 4-3 win over Southern Tigers at the Selayang Stadium on Monday despite playing with only 10 players from the 55th minute onwards after Nasriq Baharom was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Felda United head coach Irfan Bakti does not fear playing at the Larkin Stadium where the star-studded Southern Tigers have been unbeaten this season. Neither is the former Selangor and Terengganu coach concerned about the mammoth crowd that is expected for the match.
What he fears most is the match officials.
“Give us the ‘security’ on the pitch. That is all we ask for. My team is ready to do battle for a place in the Malaysia Cup final. It won’t be an easy match…we are aware of this and know that the one-goal cushion,” said Irfan.
“Putting that aside the pressure is on JDT, Felda is also made up of experienced players who have the character to take the challenge. We showed this when we scored goals even when we were a man short. It would have been a different story if we were equal in numbers on the field.
“This Saturday will demand another fighting display of attacking football. There will be some changes to my match strategies at Larkin. We can hold our own in terms of experience. What worries me is the match officials. They should take the field without fear or favour.”
While not pointing a finger at the referee, many questioned rerferee Samsuddin Ibrahim’s questionable decisions in the first-leg semi-final at Selayang and for not taking a firm control of the match.
Irfan added that his team’s morale is sky high after the inspiring performance in Selayang in the seven-goal thriller which many had not expected from “The Fighters” who have won promotion to the elite Super League after finishing second in this year’s Premier League.
“This is the first time a team has scored four goals against JDT this season. This itself is an achievment. We matched them in every department although we did let in two soft goals. It has boosted our confidence to battle another half of the match in Larkin.
“If we could score four in Selayang there is no reason why we cannot score more in Larkin. One factor that was pleasing to me was the way my players stood up against the big names in JDT,” Irfan said, adding that his team is “seasoned” playing in front of a big partisan crowd.