* JDT were unbeaten at home last season
* But Pahang takes pride of not having lost at Larkin in 2014
*JDT confident of winning against their bogey team
The official name is Stadium Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos but it is better known as the Larkin Stadium to the local football fraternity and it is the home of the Southern Tigers (Johor Darul Takzim) last year’s Super League champions.
The Larkin Stadium – the pride of Johor with the best football pitch in the country and probably in the region – is the focus for Saturday’s Charity Shield between JDT (League champions) and Pahang (Malaysia Cup and FA Cup champions) – in the M-League curtain raiser which also doubles up as a league match. Pahang are the reigning Charity Shield champions.
The East Coast giants can boast of a record which others can only envy – coming off unbeaten twice at Larkin – a 2-2 in a league match and 1-1 in a FA Cup match. All in all the Elephants remained unbeaten in the five encounters against the Southern Tigers – winning 3-2 (league) in Kuantan and 1-0 in the FA Cup before the 5-3 win on penalties after extra-time failed to produce a winner (2-2) in the Malaysia Cup final.
That statistics will take a back seat as Johor FA president HRH Brigadier General Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said “JDT’s better preparations will deliver the desired results” in 2015 and the Southern Tigers are ready to end the winless jinx against their East Coast rivals – starting to the Charity Shield match to kick-start their M-League campaign with an eye on all the titles in the M-League.
More importantly, JDT hope to become the first Malaysian team to play in the AFC Champions League tournament proper although they have a mountain to climb in order to achieve that. The daunting task begins with a home match against Indian League champions Bengaluru FC at the Larkin Stadium on Feb 4.
A defeat will cut short their AFC Champions League campaign. If JDT do clear their first hurdle another two tough hurdles await -against Thailand FA Cup champions Bangkok Glass FC on Feb 10 and 13-time China League champions Beijing Guoan on Feb 17.
As FA Cup champions Pahang will play in the AFC Cup (group stage) and a winning start in 2015 (Charity Shield) will be a shot in the arm for the Elephants, the most successful and consistent team in the M-League last season..
Pahang and JDT are two of the biggest names in Malaysian football. The Southern Tigers have a star-studded side with some of the big names in their stable. JDT are determined to establish themselves as the best football club not only in Malaysia but also in this region. The Johor outfit have further beefed up squad with names like Farizal Marlias and S. Kunanlan (From Selangor), S. Chanturu and Junior Eldstal (both from Sarawak) Another new signing, international Gary Steven Robbat was “deregistered” by the FA of Malaysia after he was found guilty of signing for JDT while still having a contract with Harimau Muda and has been slapped a three-month ban plus fined RM50,000.
Pahang have made the least changes to their 2015 squad and have retained all their four foreigners – Damion Stewart (Jamaica), Zesh Rehman (Pakistan) and strikers Matias Conti (Argentina) and Dickson Nwakaeme (Nigeria).
JDT too have retained their foreign legion – midfielder Hariss Harun (Singapore), strikers Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Luciano Figueroa (both Argentina)
and defender Marcos Antonio Santos (Brazil).
Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan is quick to admit that it will be a “tough battle” at Larkin but has confidence in his team of improving on last year’s results at Larkin. The former international is even looking at bringing the silverware home.
“I would love to see my team break the jinx at Larkin. We have not lost at Larkin but it is not impossible to get a win…though it all points to a JDT win. They have a very passionate crowd and tremendous home support. But it stops at that. I have confidence in my players are they are all geared up for the big match,” said Zainal, who will not have the services of international flanker Azamuddin Akil and tough defender Saifulnizm Miswan who is under suspension for a red card in last year’s Malaysia Cup final.