* Apek was vomiting, Amutu on drips and reserve keeper Shahrizan complained of giddiness before match – Azraai
* ‘But these are not the excuse for out sluggish performance in the final’ – Azraai
* The Red Warriors resume training on June 1 for their Super League campaign
With first choice goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat vomiting, Nigerian striker Austin Amutu on drips due to high fever and second choice keeper Shahrizan Ismail complaining of giddiness – all before the match – the tell tale signs were there for Kelantan’s 3-1 defeat to Singapore outfit Lions XII in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
The 2012 treble winners were the hot favourites to regain the FA Cup – what more when the 100,000 capacity National Stadium in Bukit Jalil was packed with more than 70,000 Kelantan fans and supporters compared to about 6,000 Singaporeans.
Kelantan were the pick of football pundits – having won the FA Cup in 2012 and 2013, defeating Sime Darby and Johor Darul Takzim respectively by 1-0 margins.
Kelantan chief coach Azraai Khor Abdullah is back in his hometown Alor Star – still unable to stomach the defeat. The Red Warriors trooped into the stadium with confidence oozing from their 3-2 aggregate win over defending champions Pahang in the two-leg semi-finals.
Pahang won 1-0 in Kuantan but Kelantan turned the tables on the Elephants in Kota Bahru with a 3-1 win.
“I am not finding excuses for the defeat but the tell tale signs were there. Khairul was vomiting before the match and second choice (goalkeeper) Sharizan Ismail was feeling giddy. On top of that Amutu came down with high fever and had to be put on drips,” said Azraai from Alor Star.”
Azraai added that third choice goalkeeper Muhammad Syazwan Yusoff was considered for the final but Khairul recovered and was fielded in the first team.
“We did not play our normal game, something was not right on match day. It was not smooth going for us but when we did get the equaliser, I thought it will work for us against the Lions. But it turned out to be a nightmare for Kelantan on a night when our backline also did not perform to expectations.
“I must admit that we left thousands disappointed with our performance. Even when Lions took an early lead there was confidence that we will bounce back and when Wan Zack Haikal made it all square I was optimistic of a Kelantan fightback,” added Azraai, who was roped in to take over the hot seat from Dutchman George Boateng in early April.
Faris Ramli scored the opening goal for the Lions after seven minutes before Wan Zack got the equaliser on 62 minutes. However, substitute Sahil Suhaimi plundered two goals in the 81st and 91st (penalty) for the Lions to a roar to an emphatic 3-1 win and in the process wrote football history as the first foreign team to take the FA Cup out of Malaysia.
Azraai and company now switch their focus to their campaign in the Super League where the Red Warriors are in 10th place in the 12-team league – above Armed Forces and Sime Darby.