Kedah looking to upset LionsXII
Their imports looking to cause... 99 problems but the pitch ain't one
Shoulders squared, with legs apart, the Kedah No. 49 controlled the ball sweetly with his right foot before firing it straight into the top corner.
Albanian midfielder Liridon Krasniqi, all 1.88 metres of him, was a picture of supreme confidence on the Jalan Besar pitch at training yesterday.
It's easy to see why, after the 23-year-old helped the Red Hawks win the second-tier Malaysian Premier League and gain promotion to the Malaysian Super League next season.
Describing himself as a "mix of a street soccer player and a big-field footballer", Krasniqi admires the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho.
There is even a YouTube video of Krasniqi's skills when he helped his former team, Turkish second division club Fethiyespor, knock giants Fenerbahce out of the Turkish Cup in 2013.
He is confident he can be part of another mighty upset when Kedah take on the LionsXII in their opening Malaysia Cup Group A clash tonight.
"We are playing with a lot of confidence, and we are ready to play and win," he said.
"But I hope they will water the pitch because it is very hard."
Another of the team's foreign signing, Brazilian midfielder Sandro da Silva Mendonca, the Kedah No. 50, cut a more pensive figure on the bench yesterday.
After taking a few shots at goal, the 31-year-old shook his head seemingly unhappy, and said: "I don't like the pitch because the last time I played on a similar pitch, I injured my knee.
"But, of course, we will give it our all because we come here to win."
Traditionally, Kedah have been somewhat of a bogey team for Singapore sides.
In 1990 and 1993, they beat Singapore in the Malaysia Cup final, while the LionsXII have never managed to beat Kedah at Jalan Besar, being held to 3-3 and 2-2 draws in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Since taking over in the middle of last season, former Malaysia national assistant coach Tan Cheng Hoe has moulded them into a solid attacking unit, surprising many as they marched into the Malaysia Cup semi-finals last year as a second-division outfit.
The 47-year-old, who played for Kedah in the 1990 triumph, said: "After our recent successes, expectations are higher but what's past is past.
"This is a new competition and we are the underdogs with LionsXII and Terengganu - the top seeds in the group - of better quality compared to us.
"The LionsXII are young, fast and strong and we will need to get used to the artificial pitch quickly.
"Our imports have played a big role to raise the standard of our play and get us promoted to the Super League, but it's an overall team effort with the help of the local players, too.
"It is only through a team effort that we can continue to surprise and beat higher-ranked sides."
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