* JDT’s Junior Eldtsal called up as replacement for injured Idris Ahmad
* Mat Yo pulls out from national squad due to rib injury
* National squad trains without JDT and Pahang players
* ‘About 80 per cent of the team will come from JDT and Pahang’ – Dollah Salleh
National football coach Dollah Salleh is once besieged with a handful of problems and moans the absence of key players from Super League champions Johor Darul Takzim and runners-up Pahang who are involved in the AFC Cup first-leg quarter-finals. On top of that striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Terengganu) and defender Idris Ahmad (Perak) are on the crock list. Mat Yo – as Norshahrul is popularly known – is nursing a rib injury while Ahmad, who earned a national call up after his impressive performance in the Super League is recovering from knee injuries although he reported for training.
Dollah has called up JDT defender Junior Eldstal as replacement for Idris but is waiting for the “greenlight” from the JDT management to get the release. The search is still on for Norshahrul’s replacement. Time is certainly against Dollah but the former international is never one to throw in the towel despite the odds against him.
“The absence of players from JDT and Pahang is a big obstacle in preparing my team…as about 70 per cent of the team will be built around players from the two teams,” said Dollah after the morning training session on Tuesday.
The other three players from JDT in the national squad, apart from Eldtsal, are S. Kunanlan (defender), Safiq Rahim (midfielder) and Amri Yahyah (forward). The four Pahang players are (Khairul Azhan Khalid (goalkeeper), Matthew Davies and Razman Roslan (defenders) and Azamuddin Akil (midfielder). JDT players will report to Dollah for training on Wednesday after the AFC Cup first-leg quarter-final against Hong Kong’s South China FC at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru on Tuesday.
Pahang players will report soon after their return from Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Saturday (Aug 29). Pahang are also involved in the AFC Cup quarter-finals and will meet Istiklol FC of Tijikistan in the first-leg on Wednesday.
“It is a long journey from Tajikistan…and it takes three days of travelling or even longer,” lamented Dollah, who is preparing the team for this Saturday’s friendly match against Bangladesh at the Shah Alam Stadium before the 2018 World Cup qualifier Asian Zone Group A second round match against United Arab Emirates on Sept 3.
Malaysia will play UAE at the Mohamed Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi which will be followed a home match against Saudi Arabia at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sept 8.
It has been disastrous start for Malaysia with a 1-1 draw against football minnow Timor Leste and this was followed by a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of war-torn Palestine. Making do without some of his key players for centralised training has become a norm for Dollah and the former international has taken all in his stride so far.
“There is only so much you can with the squad when most of the key players are not with you for training. This is my dilemma and it has been the same since I took over as the national football coach…never smooth sailing,” said Dollah who has recalled Norfarhan Muhammad of Kelantan.
The 31-year-old Terengganu-born Nurfarhan has been in rich form of late and scored a hattrick for the Warriors in the 5-3 defeat to Pahang in Kuantan and followed up with a goal in the 4-1 win over JDT in Kota Bahru.