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 By Nicolas Anil

Pahang 'underdogs' in Malaysia FA Cup final vs. Kedah - Dollah Salleh

Coach Dollah Salleh has described his Pahang side as underdogs in Saturday night's Malaysia FA Cup final against Kedah at Shah Alam Stadium.

Kedah have established themselves as Cup kings with a third final appearance in 17 months, winning the 2016 Malaysia Cup after finishing runners up the previous year.

Pahang, with a team full of new faces, last made the FA Cup final in 2014, and only narrowly avoided relegation from the Malaysia Super League in 2016.

"Pahang are a new team, and I have only been with them for five months," Dollah said.

"But we have with us a lot of players who can play high quality football. They are also very strong mentally, and we are up for the occasion."

Pahang have plenty of capable goal scorers all over the park, coming into this final.

They have found the net 13 times in the competition, through seven different players, a statistic Dollah is counting on for victory.

"Kedah's strength lies in their midfielders, while we will be relying on our attacking players to win us the game," Dollah said. "We won't be overawed by the occasion despite playing in a Cup final after such a long time."

Winning the FA Cup would complete a momentous return for Dollah, who lifted the Malaysia Cup with Pahang in his first stint in charge in 2013.

For Kedah interim coach Nidzam Adzha, the FA Cup trophy would also signify a big achievement after taking charge for only three games.

The former Kedah forward, who took over from the departed Tan Cheng Hoe last month, has been confirmed to stay in the job until the end of the season.

Nidzam, who also won the FA Cup as a player in 1996, says familiarity with Shah Alam Stadium in recent seasons will give his team a slight advantage.

"We are comfortable playing at Shah Alam. Not only that, my players are focused ahead of this big game. They will be the ones determining the outcome of the match and I am sure they will go all out to savour success in this venue again," Nidzam said.

Kedah may be without the injured Australian defender Zachary Anderson for this game.

But Kedah captain Khairul Helmi, his partner in defence, says the team have adequate back-up players to fill in.

"We have a few replacements who can take Zac's place. Plus Kedah defends as a team so we won't be too concerned about [Pahang's] attacking threat," said Khairul.

Syawal Nordin could be a like-for-like replacement for Anderson.

Kedah have scored 16 goals in the 2017 FA Cup.

The onus will fall on Danish hit man Ken Ilso to add to his four goal tally, while Liridon Krasniqi will also to score from range, along with Brazilian midfielder Sandro Da Silva.

Likely Lineups:

Kedah: Ifwat Akmal (GK), Syazwan Zainon, Syawal Nordin, Liridon Krasniqi, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Syafiq Ahmad, Rizal Ghazali, Farhan Roslan, Sandro Da Silva, Khairul Helmi (C), Ken Ilso

Pahang: Wan Azraie Wan Teh (GK), Faisal Rosli, Heo Jae-Won, Muslim Ahmad, Matthew Davies (C), Francisco Insa, Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Mohamadou Sumareh, Ahmad Syamim Yahya, Wan Zaharulnizam, Matheus Alves

Kedah's road to final:

Kedah 4-2 Kuala Lumpur (Second Round)

Perak 0-2 Kedah (Third Round)

Kedah 6-1 PKNP FC (Quarterfinal, first leg)

PKNP FC 1-0 Kedah (Quarterfinal, second leg)

Kedah 1-0 Terengganu (Semifinal, first leg)

Terengganu 0-3 Kedah (Semifinal, second leg)

Pahang's road to final:

JDT II 2-4 Pahang (Second Round)

Pahang 2-0 Melaka United (Third Round)

Pahang 3-1 JDT (Quarterfinal, First Leg)

JDT 2-1 Pahang (Quarterfinal, First Leg)

Pahang 3-1 Negeri Sembilan (Semifinal, First leg)

Negeri Sembilan 1-2 Pahang (Semifinal, Second Leg)

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.


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