IT will be a battle of the wounded when defending champions Kelantan face PKNS FC in the first-leg of the FA Cup quarterfinal match at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru tomorrow.
And this time it is made more interesting by the tale of two goalkeepers – Kelantan’s Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who is also the national No. 1 and one time national trainee Zamir Selamat of PKNS.
Both their teams fell to embarrassing defeats in their respective league matches last week as a result of under-par performances from these two custodians. The Red Warriors (TRW) slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Perak in Ipoh on Saturday while PKNS were shocked 2-0 by Sarawak at the Selayang Stadium on Friday.
Both sides want to redeem their battered pride after their defeats became the talking point – with the keepers coming under the spotlight.
As the dust settles, Kelantan coach Steve Darby described goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi as a “true professional” for admitting his blunders cost Kelantan the win at the Perak Stadium.
“He is a true professional and a real gentleman. It was nice of Khairul to owe up and accept blame for the goals,” said Darby, whose 3-5-2 formation has not gone down well with the fans.
“Football is a team game and the entire team is responsible, both in defeats and wins. Being a gentleman, Khairul tweeted and apologised for his mistakes.
“He asked for forgiveness from the fans for what happened in Ipoh. It was a bad performance against Perak. We did not play well to win. It was a different story when we lost (2-1) to PKNS at home…we played well in that match but could not score.”
Tomorrow they get a chance for revenge against Wan Jamak Wan Hassan’s PKNS.
While Darby has no plans to leave Apek out of his match plans despite his blunders which came off poor judgement from set-pieces, Wan Jamak has put Zamir to the sword.
Instead, PKNS will field Remezey Che Ros in goal. The 32-year-old Remezey has recovered from his injury.
Khairul Fahmi did not play in the second round match against Sabah in Kota Baru last week after asking to be left out of the team to be with his wife who delivered a baby girl a day earlier. Kelantan won 2-1.
There was also good news for Darby for tomorrow’s tie. The Englishman will have more options to pick from for his backline with the return of defender Nik Mohd Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim. The 24-year-old was not in the team against Perak as he got married on match day.
“We have been working on our shortcomings. To concede five goals from set-pieces in six matches is an alarming figure. I have taken it upon myself to sort this out,” added Daby.
His counterpart from PKNS had this to say: “We have come with a positive mind…to achieve a result in Kota Baru. This is the FA Cup, which is totally different from a league game. The pressure is on Kelantan.
“We beat them in their own den in the league and there is no reason why we cannot do it again. The defeat to Sarawak is forgotten by us.”
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