Ceres-La Salle FC embarks on their maiden AFC Cup Group Stage campaign tomorrow. First on their plate is Malaysian Powerhouse Selangor FA.
Photo from Selangor FA Wikipedia Page
Selangor FA is Malaysia’s biggest football club. Its home stadium in Shah Alam has a capacity of 80,000 and average attendance in their matches is just north of 13,000. The club has had a long history since its inception in 1936. It is known to be the most successful Malaysian football club in terms of trophies won.
Also known as the Red Giants, Selangor FA qualified to the 2016 AFC Cup after winning the 2015 edition of the Malaysia Cup. They also placed second to eventual Malaysian Super League champions and 2015 AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT). The Malaysian club recently signed Selangor club legend and former Pahang FA coach Zainal Abidin Hassan in their quest to become Malaysia’s top club.
Players to Watch
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) employs a 3+1 foreign player rule where 3 Non-Asians and 1 Asian player can be included in the line-up of different clubs. This allows the development of local talent within the country and the continent.
#4 Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh (Forward)
The Liberian striker is big, strong, and good in the air. He does not have the pace of namesake Ronaldinho but uses his abilities to the fullest. A recent loan acquisition from PKNS FC, he is a proven scorer from Malaysia’s second tier.
#7 Andik Vermansyah (Midfielder)
This attacking midfielder has the pace, dribbling, and passing skills which have earned him a contract offer from a J League Division 1 squad. Once known as the Indonesian Messi, the versatile winger opens up defenses, provides plenty of assists, and some goals as well.
#16 Mauro Olivi (Forward)
The Argentinian journeyman has pace and power and is a good compliment to Patrick Ronaldinho. The left-footed player is deployed as the number ten behind the striker and has the freedom to work the wings as well. The least known of all Selangor’s foreign players, he may be dangerous on the break and had a good shooting touch from distance in his past two games.
#2 Robert Cornthwaite (Defender)
Dominant in the air and good at nicking the ball off attackers, Corthwaite is the tower in the Selangor defense. The former Socceroo is Selangor’s tallest player at 1.95m (6ft 5in) but he may be unavailable in the AFC Cup match after getting an ankle or hamstring injury in their first MSL game against JDT.
#10 Nazmi Faiz (Midfielder)
Selangors’ midfield maestro, Nazmi is a very dangerous passer who can change the game in an instant. This young midfielder is quick on the ball and is the director of lightning quick counterattacks by Pahang. Losing the ball to him in the midfield is not an option as it always leads to a shot on goal.
#21 Hafiz Kamal (Midfielder)
Hafiz is no stranger to the AFC Cup as he was part of the Pahang team that qualified to the 2015 edition. The left-footed player is dangerous from set pieces, highlighted by his recent top corner goal against JDT.
#5 Muhammad Shahrom (Defender)
The Captain of Selangor is an imposing centerback standing at 1.80m (6’11 ft). The veteran player played well against JDT providing consistent coverage of the JDT attack. He will be leading the defense together with vice-captain Razman Roslan.
Starting Eleven for Selangor FA
The recent events in Malaysian and Singaporean football has introduced a lot of movement on all teams across the strait. Selangor was also a recipient of this change as it allowed Coach Zainal to bring in his trusted wards from Pahang, namely Hafiz Kamal, Razman Roslan, Khairul Azhan Khalid, and R. Gopinathan. This made Selangor a very deep team with at least two good players per position.
Injuries in the last two weeks, however, have put Selangor on the spot. Key players are doubtful for the coming match. Nazmi Faiz, Hazwan Bakri, and Robert Cornthwaite succumbed to injuries in the match against JDT. R. Gopinathan and Mauro Olivi were substituted off in the game against Perak. Patrick Ronaldinho was injured in their most recent match but is expected to play.
From the Spot
The first league game against JDT also served as the Charity Cup Final and the draw in regulation meant that the match would go straight into a penalty shootout. Below is the graphic on the tendencies of Selangor from the spot in their first two games.
Prior to 2016, Selangor was an extremely deadly counterattacking team. The 2015 Malaysia Cup saw a high pressing Selangor team making its way to the final where it scored in the first 15 minutes of both halves en route to a 2-0 win. The personnel changes prior to the season means that Selangor is clearly a team in transition.
The new team has yet to establish its identity as it still shuffles between holding the ball rather than an all-out press/counter like last year. Their first game against JDT saw that the team still favours the counter attack rather than a solid build up towards goal. It is expected that this team will revert to this approach given the away game scenario and injury issues haunting the team.
Defensively, the back four is solid even with the loss of the towering Cornthwaite. Vice-Captain Razman Roslan is an able replacement similar to his partner centerback Captain Sharom Kalam. Wingbacks Raimi Nor and Azrif Nazrulhaq both have the pace to cancel out attacks from the wing. To date, they have only conceded once through a header from a corner kick against JDT.
Their second league game against Perak was an adjustment game after losing many of their starters. The loss of Mauro Olivi in that game made them more predictable in the attack allowing Perak to constantly bombard the Red Giant’s defence. Perak did find the back of the net when a free kick deflection found its way to a Perak player but it was ruled out because of an (incorrect) offside call. This only proves that their defence is really at another level.
The Malaysian Cup winners will parade a 4-4-2 formation with Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh slightly forward of his striking partner. It is expected that Selangor will stick to their counter-attacking approach given the recent spate of injuries and unfamiliarity with Ceres. The possible return of midfielder Nazmi Faiz will make it much easier for Coach Zainal as he will only have to think about the open left wing position come game time. Malaysian club football has always brought quality wherever they play, and Ceres should expect nothing less from its biggest club.