Amamchi looking to 'destroy' the LionsXII
Nigerian Amamchi vows to win Cup for fans but LionsXII ready to face deadly striker
KELANTAN v LIONSXII
(Tonight, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
Kelantan striker Iwuji Amamchi walked into the Bukit Jalil Stadium like he owned it.
To be sure, the 22-year-old Nigerian who joined Kelantan only last month, virtually dragged his team back from the death in the second leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final last week.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg and coming on with the score at 1-1, he turned the game on its head with two brilliant strikes to destroy Pahang.
And he is looking to do the same against the LionsXII in tonight's final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
"I like that word, destroy," he said, running his fingers along his chin.
"I want to destroy the LionsXII, yes.
"Against Pahang, it felt great to bring the team to the final. (It was) a game that we could have lost. That was a rescue mission."
His inspiration? The Kelantan fans.
"In my whole playing career, I have seen a lot of fans, but I've never seen any like the Kelantan fans," he said.
"These fans never give up, they keep cheering for us even though we are down. If the fans don't give up, how can you, as a player, give up?
"I promised the fans that (tonight) we're not going to fail them."
While it is Kelantan's red army that has added fuel to Amamchi's fire, his teammates do not need any added motivation.
"It is very important that as Malaysians we win the trophy - it's about pride, national pride," said coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, who believes that playing against a Singaporean side is motivation in itself.
"Can you imagine how shameful it'll be if the cup is taken out of the country by a Singapore team? We have to keep it in the mainland.
"That's the same feeling that all my players have."
Azraai counts Amamchi as a potential match-winner.
"He came last month for trials and, apart from being young, he's got speed, power and good technique," said the 62-year-old.
"He can be our match-winner.
"He's only 22 and, when players like these are young, it's much easier to motivate them."
Azraai is spot-on with that. Amamchi was overwhelmed by fans' support from the first moment he stepped on Kelantan soil.
"The day I arrived here, there were already fans at the airport waiting for me - they welcomed me really well, I even saw my picture in the papers," he said.
The good news for the LionsXII is that Amamchi is still struggling with injury and is admittedly not fully match-fit.
He said: "I'm ready, (but) not ready. I can't play 90 minutes, but I can play."
Whether Amamchi can last the full 90 minutes, the LionsXII are not taking any risks.
"We need to double-team him," said central defender Madhu Mohana, who has his own battle cry for Amamchi.
"Physically, we will lose out against these bigger strikers. So we have to help each other out, and we are used to it because all Malaysian teams we play against have a big striker these days.
"He can say what he wants, but we are all confident - and we are ready for battle."
"Sometimes we can be complacent, I agree. But this final is totally different, we respect the LionsXII’s fitness and their discipline. We will not be taking things easy or anything for granted."
- Kelantan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah
BY THE NUMBERS
In seven encounters between the LionsXII and Kelantan since the Singapore side's debut in the Malaysian competition in 2012, Kelantan have won six and lost only once.
Clip the Red Warriors' wings
TEAM: Kelantan FA
COACH: Azraai Khor Abdullah
- LionsXII 1 Kelantan 2
(Jan 10, 2012, MSL)
- Kelantan 3 LionsXII 0
(May 4, 2012, MSL)
- LionsXII 1 Kelantan 0
(March 9, 2013, MSL)
- Kelantan 2 LionsXII 0
(July 6, 2013, MSL)
- LionsXII 1 Kelantan 2
(March 8, 2014, MSL)
- Kelantan 2 LionsXII 1
(June 10, 2014, MSL)
- Kelantan 2 LionsXII 0
(Feb 15, 2015, MSL)
- TNP PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
AMIRIDZWAN TAJ TAJUDDIN
Remember him? The former ATM FA centre back was the one who fractured former LionsXII striker Fazrul Nawaz's skull with a nasty challenge in a Malaysia Cup match in 2013.
Amiridzwan (above) was Kelantan's last acquisition in the April transfer window, and the Red Warriors have found themselves a 29-year-old, 1.90m defender who has the pace and power to complement Australian Jonathan McKain.
But he is also known to be reckless.
At the same time, the partnership hasn't had enough time to gel. The problem was worsened by McKain's suspension, which ruled him out of Kelantan's last match against Pahang.
- PHOTO: TNP FILE
Much revered in Kelantan, the Red Warriors fans have dubbed Badhri's signature long balls "Gelembong Boya" which means "The Alligator Curve" in the local dialect.
The 32-year-old's vicious dip and bend to his passes and shots from set-pieces have become his trademark.
Badhri (above) has scored twice against the LionsXII - straight from a corner in 2013, and off a free-kick earlier this year. Lions -XII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and his teammates must keep a tight leash on this midfield talisman.
WAN ZACK HAIKAL and WAN ZAHARULNIZAM ZAKARIA
The Red Warriors are formidable down the flanks partly because of these wing wizards, who combined to perfection in the first half against Pahang.
On the right, Wan Zack loves to tease fullbacks before delivering wicked crosses. Against Pahang, one of them found Wan Zaharulnizam, who stole in to score the opener in the 18th minute.
But the duo are also susceptible to having anonymous outings against disciplined defences. The LionsXII will hope to limit these Special Wans to mere Subdued Wans.
- PHOTO: MARCELO
The 22-year-old, on loan from Nigerian side Warri Wolves, took just 10 minutes on his debut to open his Kelantan account last month, in a 3-1 league loss to Johor Darul Ta'zim.
He also fired a brace against Pahang, including the injury-time winner in their semi-final second leg, to help seal a 3-2 aggregate victory in Kota Baru last Saturday.
The 1.86m striker (above) is strong in the mould of Marlon James and Dickson Nwakaeme, and younger.
The Nigerian Under-23 international loves to cut in from the right wing to shoot, so the left-sided LionsXII defenders must ready themselves for a busy evening.