Double mission for Sarawak tonight


Zaki targets FA Cup survival; Shahrol seeks perfect wedding gift

KUCHING: A double mission is in store for Sarawak when they play Penang in the return leg of the FA Cup at the Sarawak Stadium tonight.

Mohd Shahrol Saperi

Mohd Shahrol Saperi

First, they will be playing to secure a place in the next round of the competition, and second, to notch a win as the perfect wedding gift for winger Mohd Shahrol Saperi, who will be tying the knot tomorrow.

Coach Mohamad Zaki Sheikh Ahmad said Shahrol deserved the honour because his goal helped Sarawak reduce the deficit in their 1-2 defeat away to the Panthers in the first leg at Batu Kawan last Tuesday.

However, the bad news is Shahrol’s place in the starting eleven is in doubt as he is still nursing an injury after getting a knock in the first round.

“I’m not sure whether he is fit to play tonight. If so, it’s an advantage for us – if not, a victory will certainly be a perfect gift for his wedding,” Zaki said.

With the need to score at least twice to cancel out the one-goal deficit and qualify for the next round, the coach is not taking anything for granted even with home ground advantage.

“The game is still open and we still have the chance to redeem ourselves. But we have to be at our best. The lack of finishing is our main concern. We had dozens of chances in the first leg but simply couldn’t put them away. Hopefully, things will be different this time around,” he added.

The back four are also a big a worry for Zaki who regard them as the weakest link with the players easily fazed at crucial moments.

However, he hopes the return of skipper Mohd Fadly Kassim from a one-match ban after receiving the marching order in the 0-3 loss to ATM last week, will shore up the defence.

“He has been influential in the team and his experience and strength will be an asset,” Zaki said.

According to him, the fact that his boys are playing on par with Penang, one of the big teams from Super League, shows they can deliver if they keep their composure.

“A good result tonight will definitely boost our morale not only in the FA Cup but also in fighting for a better Premier League standing. We will have to keep plugging away,” he said.

Zaki will probably opt to retain the first-leg starting eleven for tonight’s match.