Pahang, ATM handed tricky FA Cup openers

Pahang and ATM will both have their work cut out if they are to progress from the first round of the Malaysia FA Cup after being handed tough tests in Friday’s draw.

As reigning Malaysia Cup champions, Pahang will be expected to mount a challenge for next season’s FA Cup but will have to get past Perak if they are to continue on to the Round of 16.

Tok Gajah were on the losing end in both their meetings against Seladang last term, falling to a 1-0 defeat in February courtesy of a Jalaluddin Jaafar own-goal, before being beaten 2-1 at the Darulmakmur Stadium in June.

Like Pahang, ATM have also been tipped to be a major challenger for silverware in 2014 but their first test will be newly-promoted Sime Darby.

Sime Darby sealed their return to the top flight after finishing second in the Premier League, four points behind champions Sarawak.

They followed that up with an impressive run in the Malaysia Cup, where they qualified for the knockout round after finishing second in Group A ahead of Johor and Selangor, before being eliminated by Sarawak in the quarter-finals.

ATM, who were also in Sime Darby’s group, failed to beat them in both meetings; losing 4-3 in a real thriller at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium on the opening match-day, before being held to a 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere, reigning Super League champions LIONSXII have a good chance of avoiding a repeat of this year’s first-round exit after being drawn against DRB-Hicom, while Harimau Muda C have been handed a tough debut in the competition against Selangor.

Other notable ties see PKNS FC take on Johor, Sarawak face Penang, while Negeri Sembilan and FELDA United lock horns in the battle of the relegated sides.

Defending champions Kelantan and runners up Darul Takzim have both been given byes and will enter the competition at the last-16 stage.

2014 Malaysia FA Cup First Round Fixtures

PBAPP vs Cebagoo

Malacca vs Perlis

Negeri Sembilan vs FELDA United

Kuala Lumpur vs Kedah

PDRM vs SPA FC

T-Team vs UiTM

PKNS FC v Johor

Terengganu vs Shahzan Muda

Sabah vs Kuantan

ATM vs Sime Darby

Sarawak vs Penang

Pahang vs Perak

LIONSXII vs DRB-Hicom

Selangor vs Harimau Muda C 

Bennett, Shi stay on at Warriors but foreign quartet departs

Singapore internationals Daniel Bennett and Shi Jiayi will both play for Warriors FC in 2014 after the club announced the list of players retained for the 2014 Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League campaign.

Bennett and Shi are two of the most experienced players on the Warriors list and were both members of the Singapore squad that won the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, but neither has represented the Lions since current coach Bernd Stange took charge earlier this year.

However, they continue to play key roles at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium and will provide their side with valuable experience in what is likely to be a season of rebuilding under English coach Alex Weaver.

The eight-time S.League champions have also retained Singapore number one Hassan Sunny, defenders Marin Vidosevic, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Jeremy Chiang and Abdil Qaiyyim, along with youngsters Hafsyar Farkhan, Prakash Manikam and Dharham Aziz.

As expected, Vidosevic is the only member of Warriors’ foreign contingent retained, with the club confirming at the end of the season that Japanese midfielders Shimpei Sakurada and Tatsuro Inui would be released, while former Japan international Kazuyuki Toda has retired.

Weaver will be looking for a new spearhead up front as well following the departure of Bosnian striker Mislav Karoglan, the 2011 S.League Player of the Year, who netted 71 league goals in three years with the Warriors.

It appears that attacking reinforcements will be the main priority for the Warriors in the off season given that Sufian Anuar and Erwan Gunawan have also been released, leaving no recognised striker in the current squad.

Other notable names that were not retained by the Warriors include goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at, full-back Syaiful Iskandar and midfielder Shukor Zailan.

Retained: Daniel Bennett, Zulfadli Zainal Abidin, Hafsyar Farkhan, Hassan Sunny, Jeremy Chiang, Marin Vidosevic, Shi Jiayi, Prakash Manikam, Dharham Aziz, Abdil Qaiyyim.

Released: Syaiful Iskandar, Kazuyuki Toda, Syed Fadhil, Tatsuro Inui, Shimpei Sakurada, Mislav Karoglan, Sufian Anuar, Erwan Gunawan, Matthew Abraham, Shukor Zailan, Hyrulnizam Juma’at.

Oktovianus left out of Indonesia’s SEA Games squad

Perseru Serui winger Oktovianus Maniani is the biggest name that has been left out of the Indonesia squad for next month’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

The biennial Under-23 tournament, which will be held in Myanmar, kicks off on December 7 and teams are currently in the final stages of their preparations.

And Indonesia, who claimed the silver medal in 2011, released their 20-man squad for the tournament on Thursday, with Oktovianus the biggest name to be left out by coach Rahmad Darmawan.

The 23-year-old has won 24 caps for the senior side and was part of the squad that finished runners-up at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, while he also named Most Valuable Player at the last SEA Games.

Other that failed to make the final cut include goalkeeper Shahar Ginanjar, defender Fandy Imbiri, midfielder Syakir Sulaiman and forwards Aldaier Makatindu and Sunarto.

Darmawan defended his decision to drop a potential match-winner in Oktovianus, claiming there was plenty of competition for places in the squad.

“It is one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make but one which I had to face,” he said on the AFF’s official website.

“The competition for every position was keen but my main consideration in taking players was in their ability to play in several positions. That was the key.”

There was however a spot for Andik Vermansah, one of the hottest properties in Indonesian football at the moment, as well as goalkeeper Kurnia Meiga, Dutch-born defender Diego Michiels and anchorman Egi Melgiansyah.

Indonesia squad for 2013 SEA Games

Goalkeepers: Kurnia Meiga (Arema Cronous), Andritany Ardhiyasa (Persija Jakarta)

Defenders: Diego Michiels (Unattached), Alfin Tuasalamony (Persib Bandung), Syahrizal Syahbuddin (Persija Jakarta), Andri Ibo, Ronny Beroperay (both Persipura Jayapura), Mokhamad Syaifuddin (Pelita Bandung Raya)

Midfielders: Andik Vermansah (Unattached), Egi Melgiansyah, Ramdani Lestaluhu (both Persija Jakarta), Manahati Lestusen, Dedi Kusnandar (both Persebaya Surabaya), Bayu Gatra (Persisam Putra Samarinda), Rizky Pellu (Pelita Bandung Raya), Nelson Alom (Persipura Jayapura)

Forwards: Fandi Eko Utomo (Persebaya Surabaya), Dendi Santoso (Arema Cronous), Yohanes Pahabol (Persipura Jayapura), Yandi Munawar (Brisbane Roar)

Suphasek seals permanent move to Bangkok Glass

Thai Premier League outfit Bangkok Glass have completed the signing of midfielder Suphasek Kaikaew on a permanent deal from Chonburi.

The 26-year-old spent 2013 on loan at the Leo Stadium and played a key role for the Glass Rabbits as they finished fifth in the league, scoring five goals in the process to finish as their joint-second top scorer alongside Teeratep Winothai, and only behind Chatree Chimtale.

Suphasek was also part of the side that reached the FA Cup final before being beaten 3-1 by Buriram United, although it was initially uncertain if he would be returning to the Sharks for next season.

However, his long-term future has now been resolved after Bangkok Glass confirmed on Wednesday that his move had been made permanent after he put pen to paper to a three-year deal.

The Glass Rabbits have also signed Jetsadakorn Hemdaeng from Chonburi, as well as attacking midfielder Suradej Thongchai from Osotspa Saraburi.

Harimau Malaya vacancy down to Troussier, Zeman

The Malaysia coach vacancy appears to have been narrowed down to two candidates – France’s Philippe Troussier and Czech Zdenek Zeman.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have been on the lookout for a new main man after it was confirmed that K. Rajagobal’s contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the year.

Earlier in the year, when it was first revealed that applications were being entertained for the possible vacancy, it was reported that there was no shortage of interested candidates.

However, according to a report from the New Straits Times, that list has been narrowed down to Troussier and Zeman.

The former has no shortage of international experience having taken charge of South Africa and Japan at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups respectively, along with spells with Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Qatar and Morocco.

The 58-year-old has tasted success on the Asian stage having led the Samurai Blue to the victory at the 2000 AFC Asian Cup, and is currently in charge of Chinese side Shenzhen Ruby.

He will nonetheless be coming up against an equally experienced candidate who is best known for his time in Serie A, having had spells in charge of Parma, Lazio, Roma and Napoli.

It was also revealed that the three other coaches that were originally on the FAM’s final five-man shortlist – ex-France captain Marcel Desailly, former Singapore boss Radojko Avramovic and Pahang boss Dollah Salleh – are officially out of the running.

“We have decided to hire a foreigner, with Troussier being our main target,” an FAM official told the New Straits Times.

“We have met him twice and a third meeting will be scheduled very soon.

“Zeman is also on our list. He is a respected coach with experience and could also be our guy.

“Desailly may have been a great player but is unproven in coaching, while Avramovic and Dollah are good trainers but they are not favoured.”

The report also suggested that Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee, who has been handed the reins of the senior team on an interim basis, has also agreed a two-year extension barring a disastrous display in the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Woodlands shaping up well after retaining key players

Woodlands Wellington are shaping up well for the new Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League season after confirming a host of key players have been retained for next year.

After two seasons of finishing bottom of the pile, 2013 was a year to remember for the Rams as they surged up the table and finished the campaign a commendable fifth, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the Starhub League Cup.

And it looks like Woodlands have a very good chance of continuing their rise after they announced 11 players have been retained for next year.

Leading the way are South Korean strikers Moon Soon-ho and Chang Jo-yoon, who combined for 28 of the 45 league goals the club scored in the 2013 campaign, while Japanese midfielder Atsushi Shimono will also be around for a second season after joining 12 months ago from Albirex Niigata (S).

Veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin, who celebrated his 400th S.League appearance earlier this year, will continue his record of having played in all 19 seasons of Singaporean football’s top flight, and his goal will once again be protected by experienced defenders Shahril Alias and Rosman Sulaiman.

Club captain Armanizam Dolah has also been retained, along with midfielder Farouq Farkhan, forwards Goh Swee Swee and Fadhil Noh, and goalkeeper Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, who has fully recovered after having his 2013 ruined by a serious injury.

It however remains to be seen if the same coach will be at the helm at the Woodlands Stadium come the start of the new season given Salim Moin has been heavily linked with a move to reigning S.League champions Tampines Rovers.

There has also been speculation that Australian tactician Darren Stewart, who recently parted ways with Balestier Khalsa, could take over if Salim does end his association with the Rams.

Retained: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Yazid Yasin, Rosman Sulaiman, Shahril Alias, Atsushi Shimono, Armanizam Dolah, Farouq Farkhan, Goh Swee Swee, Chang Jo-yoon, Moon Soon-ho, Fadhil Noh.

Released: Nazri Sabri, Cho Sung-hwan, Hidhir Hasbiallah, Theeraweekin Seehawong, Taufiq Rahmat, Oswind Suriya, Shariff Samat, Farizal Basri, Ridhwan Osman, Ang Zhiwei.

Tanjong Pagar part ways with marquee man Zerka

Tanjong Pagar United will be without striker Monsef Zerka for the 2014 Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League season after it was confirmed he has not been retained by the club.

The Morocco international was one of the stars of last season after arriving as the Jaguars’ marquee signing, scoring 19 goals in all competition as his side finished sixth in the league and reached the final of the RHB Singapore Cup.

However, it appears his stint at the Queenstown Stadium has lasted just a year after Tanjong Pagar announced the players they will be retaining for the new campaign, with his name missing from the list.

Ismael Benahmed, Zerka’s strike partner who scored 11 goals in 2013, will also not be playing for the Jaguars next year after the club confirmed earlier in the month that they had parted ways with the 24-year-old.

Nonetheless, French playmaker Kamel Ramdani, who also enjoyed a stellar maiden season in Singaporean football, has been retained, along with compatriots Anthony Aymard and Aurelien Herisson.

Of the club’s local contingent, captain Hafiz Osman will line up for a third season while experienced midfielders Ahmad Latiff and Sazali Salleh, as well as veteran left-back Zahid Ahmad, have all signed new deals.

Rounding off the lists of players that will play for the Jaguars in 2014 include back-up goalkeeper Shamsudin Hashim, defender Hanafi Salleh and left winger Asraf Rashid.

Retained: Aurelien Herisson, Shamsudin Hashim, Anthony Aymard, Hafiz Osman, Hanafi Salleh, Zahid Ahmad, Kamel Ramdani, Asraf Rashid, Ahmad Latiff, Sazali Salleh.

Released: Zulfadhli Emran, Azhar Ahmad, Ismael Benahmed, Hafiz Nor, Monsef Zerka, Abdul Rahim, K. Vikraman, John Wilkinson, Walid Lounis, Rizawan Abdullah.