M-league teams give new fixtures the thumbs up

KUALA LUMPUR – All Malaysia League (M-League) teams have agreed to the new fixtures released by the Malaysian Football League (MFL) for the second half of the Super League and Premier League campaigns next month.

Petaling Jaya (PJ) City FC head coach P. Maniam described the new fixtures as “fair”, saying every team would have more time to prepare, especially taking into considering the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) 3.0.

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With The Phoenix yet to begin their camp-based training session, he admitted that he would need more time to whip his team into shape for the remaining matches in the 2021 Super League.

“As a coach, I feel that the fixtures are balanced, seeing as to how the Harimau Malaya squad, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), Terengganu FC (TFC) and Kedah Darul Aman (KDA) FC also have other assignments.

“After that, they also have to undergo 14 days of quarantine. So, I feel that it will not be a problem for us to resume the M-League from July 24,” he said in a statement issued by the MFL today.

According to the fixtures released by the MFL yesterday, the Premier League and Super League will resume on July 3 and July 24 respectively after the completion of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers as well as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League and AFC Cup competitions.

The Qualifiers are set to end on June 15, the AFC Champions League on July 7 and the AFC Cup on July 6.

Meanwhile, Terengganu FC coach Nafuzi Zain hoped that the fixtures for the AFC Cup, which also involves KDA FC and scheduled to start on June 29, would not be changed although the venue has yet to be decided following Singapore’s decision to pull out as hosts.

This, he said, was because any changes to the AFC Cup fixtures would affect his team’s preparations as well as have an impact on the other M-League teams not involved in that competition.

Negeri Sembilan FC head coach K. Devan also agreed that there was ample time for him to prepare his Super League side since they would have about three weeks to get cracking.

The MFL also confirmed the new dates for the two postponed Premier League matches, namely between Selangor FC 2 and Sarawak United FC (due to bad weather) as well as between Perak FC II and Kelantan FC (due to Kelantan FC players being told to undergo a 10-day quarantine by the Ministry of Health after some of them tested positive for COVID-19).

Perak FC II will now take on Kelantan FC on June 29 while Selangor FC 2 will meet Sarawak United on June 30.

Football is teamwork

Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe meanwhile in a related development, doesn’t want to blame any players for the team’s 1-2 defeat against Vietnam at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) early today.

However, Cheng Hoe, whose father died just about 12 hours before the kick off, said football is about team work and hopes his charges will work to improve and play as a team so that the national squad can be a commendable one in the future.

His father Tan Chooi Siak, 95, died of old age at about noon yesterday in Alor Setar, Kedah.

Commenting on Group G of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second-round qualifiers, the 53-year-old coach said his side were unlucky to concede two goals via set pieces.

“Overall as a coach I am very happy with the performance of our players, despite the defeat. It was not an easy game, but everyone was very committed, disciplined on the pitch, maybe due to the transition (change in tactics by Vietnam to defence and launching counter attacks), we lost concentration in the set pieces.

“Definitely we had our chances, we attacked, both teams played very openly and tried to get a positive result, but unfortunately we could not win the game. I still strongly believe that my players played well, we need to step up against Thailand,” he told the post-match press conference in Dubai. The audio was shared to the press by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

The Golden Dragons opened the scoring through a powerful header by Nguyen Tien Linh in the 27th minute after a corner kick, before the Harimau Malaya equalised through Guilherme de Paula’s penalty in the 72nd minute.

However, Vietnam secured the three points through Que Ngoc Hai’s penalty 10 minutes later, a decision questioned by the fans.

After two consecutive defeats and having missed the chance to qualify to the third round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup and automatic qualification to the Asian Cup, Cheng Hoe wants his charges to focus on their final group tie against Thailand on Tuesday morning to get an easier path for the Asian Cup qualifications.

“Thailand won’t be an easy game because they had more rest than us (after their 1-3 defeat to UAE on Monday). Definitely as a coach, I have to prepare recovery for the players and get ready for the next match,” he added.

The unbeaten Vietnamese top the standings in Group G with 17 points after seven games, followed by the UAE (15 points), Thailand (nine), Malaysia (nine) and Indonesia (one).

Cheng Hoe committed

Harimau Malaya team manager Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi has reiterated that coach Tan Cheng Hoe will continue to give his full commitment to the national team despite mourning the passing of his father.

“We met him (Cheng Hoe) before the (Vietnam) game and, although he was grieving, he still promised to be fully focused on the match. In fact, even the players promised to give their best.

“A win would have probably helped ease Cheng Hoe’s pain but, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as planned,” said Mohd Yusoff, who is also the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president.

He also hoped that the players will go for a win in their final group match against Thailand on Tuesday (12.45 am Wednesday Malaysian time) so as to boost team morale ahead of the next round of qualifiers in their quest for a spot in the 2023 Asia Cup Finals.