Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Thai Teams Impress In Champions League Qualifiers

Thailand showed why at least some of its clubs are streets ahead of anything else in the region with a couple of convincing results in the AFC Champions League Qualifying Round at the weekend.

Former England international Jay Bothroyd was on the score sheet for Muang Thong United as they overcame T & T Hanoi 2-0 while Chonburi defeated South China 3-0.

Muang Thong’s reward is a trip to Melbourne this weekend to take on Victory while Chonburi head north east to face Beijing Guoan in the next stage of the play offs.

After having home ground advantage against teams from Vietnam and Hong Kong, the Thais now face long trips abroad if they are to have a chance of reaching the group stage of the Champions League where Buriram United have already qualified.

In more news from Thailand, Spanish side Almeria announced they will be taking Muang Thong United striker Teerasil Dangda on loan next season. This will be his third fourth time abroad after trials with Athletico Madrid and Manchester City and a stint with Grasshoppers Zurich.

Obviously a talented player, Teerasil will be 26 when he moves to Spain and he will probably be aware this could be his last chance of making an impression overseas and certainly a low key club like Almeria, currently facing relegation, would offer the perfect opportunity to make an impression.

Johor Darul Takzim are never far from the headlines in Malaysia. They travelled to Malaysia Cup winners Pahang on Friday night and were involved in an enthralling game in front of another sell out crowd in Kuantan on the east coast of the peninsula.

Hafiz Kamal won the game for the home team in injury time, giving them a 3-2 win and leaving big spending JDT just one point off bottom place.

Former Argentine international Pablo Aimar, who has been reported as unhappy in local media, netted for JDT as did former Arema striker Safee Sali.

After the game, Pakistan international and former Fulham and Queens Park Rangers defender Zesh Rehman said the game was a good one for the fans.

For the players we felt a little disappointed as we were leading twice and lost concentration to allow them back in the game. Sometimes in football you have to grind out a victory and fighting spirit. The character was brilliant from our lads,’ he said.

Following their first Malaysia Cup success in more than 20 years, hopes are high in Pahang they can kick on to another level this season and Rehman has been pleased with the start to the campaign.

‘We are satisfied with the start. 3 points off top spot and in the quarter final of The FA Cup. I believe we get stronger once we have everyone back from injury. We will always create and score goals so that’s a major positive point.’

Rehamn, who was the first Asian footballer to play in the English Premier League, has been playing in Asia since 2011 when he signed for Muang Thong United. After two years in Thailand he moved to Kitchee in Hong Kong before heading to Malaysia for the current campaign. And so far, he has been impressed by what he has seen in Malaysia.

‘From what I have seen so far the league is very even, everyone is capable of beating everyone at any venue which makes the league standings unpredictable and exciting. The level here is good and the support from the fans to their teams is up there amongst the most passionate in the Asean region.’

In the other game played on Friday night, PKNS were defeated by Sarawak 2-0 with goals from Milorad Janjus and Gabor Gyepes.

Former Indonesian international Hamkah Hamza has been linked with a recall in the local media recently but he had a mixed game against a big, strong Sarawak team, coached by former Arema coach Robert Alberts, who certainly played to their strengths.

Much was expected of PKNS this season and especially their strike force of Karlo Primorac and Patrick Wleh. However, Promorac looked out of sorts while Liberian international Wleh has this Nwanko Kanu quality about him; you’re never quite sure what he is going to do next.

With PKNS chasing the game, Hamkah pushed on to form a three man strike force but Sarawak saw the game to move into fourth place.

On Saturday night, Selangor defeated Sime Darby, two goals from Paulo Rangel, to move two points clear of a very congested table where just six points separate the 12 teams after four rounds. Champions LionsXII were held 0-0 by Terengganu in a disappointing game at Jalan Besar Stadium and have just one win from their opening four games.

SOURCE - My Jakarta Globe column...wonder if it appears online?

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