* A repeat of the FA Cup final at the Jalan Besar Stadium
Kelantan, with no home games during the fasting month compared to other teams, travel for only their second Ramadan match when they play FA Cup champion Lions XII in a Super League match at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.
The Kelantan state government has banned football matches at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Bahru during Ramadan as the stadium is booked for religious activities. However, the Red Warriors have been allowed to play their away matches during the period.
After a 1-1 draw against bottom-placed Sime Darby at the Selayang Stadium, Kelantan face the Singapore outfit without their Australian defender Jonathan McKain who will sit out the match to serve a one match suspension for three yellow card offences.
It was Jonathan who gave away a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Sime Darby – which left Kelantan head coach Azraai Khor Abdullah fuming as the stalemate left his team in the relegation zone with 11 points from 11 matches – two matches less than the other teams.
Azraai is also concerned that the match against Lions XII will be played much earlier – at 8.30pm – instead of 10pm elsewhere. The former international said the match is “too soon” after breaking fast and this is not good for his players who will also have to cope playing on artificial turf at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Red Warriors and the Lions cross paths for the first time since the FA Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on May 24. Lions stunned Kelantan with a 3-1 won to become the first foreign team to lift the FA Cup since its inception in 1990.
In Azraai’s own words “it will be tough playing Lions at Jalan Besar” but the Red Warriors are determined not to return empty handed.
“It will be a test of character for my team. We have to be at our best at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Putting Ramadan aside, we have to grab the opportunities that come our way,” said Azraai from Kota Bahru.
The Kedah-born Azraai, brought in to take over the hot seat from Dutchman George Boateng, is counting on his Nigerian striker Austin Amuthu to make good against Fandi Ahmad and company. For the record Austin started from the bench in the FA Cup final because of illness.
“He is our asset and he is our prized possession. It is just unfortunate that he was not able to start the FA Cup final and when he did come on as a substitute it was took late for us to turn the tide. You must remember that it was Austin who took Kelantan into the FA Cup final,” added Azraai.
Apart from Austin, Kelantan’s other two foreign players are Gilmar Filho and Colombian striker Erwin Carillo, who will feature prominently in Azraai’s match plans at Jalan Besar.