* Carillo’s language barrier a thing of the past
* ‘There is rhythm in the team now’ – Azraai
Azraai Khor Abdullah had sleepless nights when the Red Warriors went five matches to secure his first win as Kelantan’s new head coach – a 3-0 win over Sime Darby in a second-leg FA Cup quarter-final and a place in the semi-finals against defending champions Pahang.
But that takes a back seat for Azraai and the Red Warriors for now. The focus is on tomorrow’s Super League biggie against leaders Selangor at Kota Bahru’s Sultan Mohd IV Stadium – a match which has drawn a lot of interest after the Red Giants demolished Singapore outfit Lions XII 4-0 at the Shah Alam Stadium last week.
While bracing for the toughie, Azraai believes that his team has found the touch to get out of the rut and pose a threat to others following the signing of Nigerian Under-23 international Austin Amutu and Brazilian Gilmat Filho during the April transfer window. The duo replace under-performing Cameroonian Emmanuel Kenmogne and Liberian Isaac Pupo. Kelantan have retained Colombian striker Erwin Carillo and Australian defender Jonathan McKain.
“There is more rhythm in the team now. The strikers are moving well and with Amutu finding the net in the two matches that he he has played so far it has given the team confidence,” said Azraai, who also revealed that Carillo, who only speaks Spanish, has overcome his language barrier somewhat with the arrival of Filho.
“At least there is more communication with Carillo as Filho is able to speak English and translates it to the others. Overcoming the language barrier is a plus point for the team. It is one hurdle less for us.”
Azraai is hoping that qualifying for the FA Cup semi-finals will drive the Red Warriors against the Red Giants who lead the 12-team Super League with 17 points on goal difference from second placed Felda United after eight matches. Police and defending champions Johor Darul Takzim are third and fourth respectively with 15 points, also separated by goal difference.
Kelantan go into the match against Selangor in 10th place with seven points.
With Kelantan FA suprem,o Tan Sri Annuar Musa sending out a strongly worded message to the local players that he will not hesitate to take drastic actions and pay according to their performance on the field, Azraai expects a much better showing against Selangor.
“Frankly there are number of big names among the locals who have been playing ‘below par’ and if they do not pull up their socks you can expect some surprises from the management,” added Azraai, who was brought in to replace Dutchman George Boateng who is now the FA’s technical director.
Annuar, irked by the locals, warned: “If you are earning RM50,000 per month in salary but you dish out a RM10,000 performance I will not hesitate to reduce the salary. We pay high salary and expect high performance from the player or players concerned.”