*’Alex’ Azamuddin set to play his first match this season
* Every team wants to beat us because we have a reputation
International Azamuddin Akil is all set to play his first competitive match this season when defending champions Pahang face FAM Cup side Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian Football Association (MISC-MIFA) in a third round FA Cup match at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan tomorrow.
The champions are expected to march into the quarter-finals with ease but head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan has been sending strong messages to his players that “no match is easy” as all teams want to beat Pahang for reasons and will play extra hard.
“We have a reputation as FA Cup and Malaysia Cup champions. (MISC) MIFA may look easy meat but this is where the danger lies. It will be a tough match…we have to be wary of this,” said Zainal from Kuantan.
The former international, however, has no complaints about his players although Pahang suffered a 1-0 defeat to South China FC in a AFC match in Group G which came in the way of a 1-0 defeat to Armed Forces in a Super League match.
“We missed our key players in the two matches. Also we have not been able to score from chances we created. In football if you don’t score from the chances you create it is a failure.”
Zainal, however, spoke enthusiastically when speaking about tomorrow’s FA Cup match as he will have the full squad at his disposal with the return of Argentine hitman Matias Conti, Fauzi Roslan, Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme and more importantly Azamuddin, better known as “Alex” in the football fraternity. Azamuddin, who has been sidelined since the AFF Suzuki Cup final against Thailand in December last year because of a knee injury (ACL).
“Alex has been training with the team over the last two weeks. However, Alex and the others will be given a fitness test before I decide on the first team. I will field my best team as this is a knockout match,” added Zainal.
Pahang knocked out star-studded Johor Darul Takzim in the FA Cup second round 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at extra-time.
“I must admit that we have to improve on out finishing. This is our main weakness at this stage. If we can start scoring we will be in better shape to face the challenge on all fronts,” said Zainal, speaking on his team’s only one win in five matches in the Super League.