Chen Hoe to stay on

KUALA LUMPUR – Kedah want coach Tan Cheng Hoe to remain in the hot seat next year and will discuss his contract renewal once he returns from holiday.

The newly crowned Malaysia Cup champions have seen a rise in fortunes in the three years Cheng Hoe has been in charge.

His reign yielded a fifth Malaysia Cup trophy and first title since the state’s 2015 Premier League success.

“We are still in the early stages of deciding on contract renewals, but the Kedah Football Association’s (KFA) executive committee are intent on tabling a contract extension for Cheng Hoe,” said KFA general secretary Datuk Aminuddin Omar.

Apart from the coach, Aminuddin said out of their three imports – Shane Smeltz, Thiago Augusto Fernandes and Liridon Krasniqi – the FA have taken a liking to Krasniqi.

“It’s still early, but we are thinking of keeping him for another year. He is good for the team,” added Aminuddin.

All three players scored five goals apiece in the Malaysia Cup. Four of Krasniqi’s goals came from dead ball situations (three penalties, one free kick). He also holds the honour of playing in every minute of their Cup campaign.

In the final, Cheng Hoe had eight Under-23 players in the squad, including three – goalkeeper Mohd Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim (20), midfielder Mohd Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik (20) and defender Mohd Syawal Nordin (22) – in the starting line-up.

The other youngsters are Abdul Halim Saari (21), Muhd Farhan Roslan (19), Muhd Syafiq Ahmad (20), Muhd Hanif Mat Dzahir (22) and Mohd Asri Mardzuki (22).

Kedah’s rise has not been easy.

They had to put up with distractions early in the season when former Kedah Menteri Besar and KFA president Mukhriz Mahathir resigned from his post amid a political crisis and sponsors lost faith in them.

Then the RM30 million sponsorship deal between cosmetics company D’Herbs and Kedah fell apart.

Amidst all these off field problems, the team were able to finish third in their first year back in the Super League.

“Cheng Hoe is a former player who has been involved with football for many years. The experience has held him in good stead and he has brought the team together with his humility and flair,” said Aminuddin.

“We are all proud of the players for what they have accomplished,” he added.

KFA are also planning a trip to Europe for pre-season. They have yet to decide where as they look for a destination that is not too cold.

In two weeks time the Malaysia Cup trophy will make its way to the 12 districts in the state for the people to view in person.

ENDS///

ah wa_2

Perak will miss No 1 fan

IPOH — Perak have lost one of their
biggest fan.

Tan Chong Wah, 49, fondly known as “Ah Wa”, died from a stroke on Monday.

Chong Wah was hospitalised at the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun since Sept 14 after fainting at an Ipoh shopping complex

He was unconscious and received treatment at the hospital for almost three weeks before being transferred to a private nursing home at Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah on Monday, where he passed on.

Despite being a slow learner, Chong Wah was hailed as Perak’s No 1 fan after attending all of Bos Gaurus matches at Perak Stadium as well as matches in other states for the past 20 years.

The third out of six siblings, Chong Wah was also awarded the Sports Supporter Icon Award last year during the state level National Sports Day.

State Youth, Sports and Human Resources Committee chairman Datuk Shahrul Zaman Yahya said Chong Wah death was a great loss.

“He was a true sports fan who was willing to sacrifice anything to support the team,” he told reporters when met at Chong Wah’s funeral service at the Heavenly Home Funeral Services.

“I knew him since 2013. He was a nice person and I use to give him a ride after matches and we shared a close bond,” he said.

Bos Gaurus supporters created a Facebook fan page for him, “Ah Wa The Legend of Perak Supporter,” which has more than six thousand followers.

Meanwhile former national hockey captain, Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi wrote on Chong Wah’s Facebook page: “A loyal supporter of hockey and football. I got to know him when I represented the country in 2000. Me and many others will definitely miss his presence and support. May you rest in peace, Ah Wa.”

Chong Wah’s cremation ceremony is 3pm today and his ashes will be buried with his late father at the Batu Gajah
Christian Cemetery.

Neymar (4)

Tale of two leagues

LONDON — The English Premier League boasts some of the top managers in the game but to see the best players in the world you have to watch Spanish football, said Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu.

While much of the focus in England is placed on managers such as Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Juergen Klopp and Antonio Conte, Bartomeu said La Liga revolves around players like Lionel Messi.

“That’s why La Liga is making a lot of effort as a league. But when we talk about La Liga I am very happy because the best players in the world play here — Messi, No 1,” Bartomeu told The Daily Telegraph.

“For me, Neymar, No 2, Cristiano Ronaldo, No 3.

“The stars who are players are here. In the Premier League the stars are the managers.”

With the Premier League’s £5.14 billion (RM26 billion) domestic television rights deal kicking in this season, Bartomeu said English clubs have more financial muscle.

“The Premier League is doing things correctly — the last few years clubs are having more and better possibilities with their economic capacity,” said the 53-year-old.

“Not only bringing people to the stadium, or finding sponsorship, but also in TV rights.

“The Premier League is now our rival because when we are going abroad, when we go for a sponsor or TV rights, we find the Premier League there all the time.”

With Messi’s contract expiring after the 2018 World Cup, Bartomeu said Barca are set to begin talks over the Argentine’s future at Nou Camp.

“We will have the negotiation with Messi in the next couple of months,” he said.

There may once again be room for Guardiola at Barca according to Bartomeu, who cannot dismiss the notion of the manager returning to Catalunya.

“It’s normal he went to the Premier League and I hope one day he will be back here,” he said.

“You never know. There are so many people who were at the club, went, came back again.Rght now he is concentrating on Manchester City.”
— Agencies

Rodrigo turns saviour for Valencia

MADRID — Winger Rodrigo’s second half equaliser earned Valencia a 1-1 draw with Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga at Riazor Stadium on Monday.

Deportivo led through Turkey international Emre Colak’s first half header, but Brazilian Rodrigo struck his fourth goal of the season early in the second period.

Valencia manager Cesare Prandelli has won one, lost one and drawn one of his three games in charge since replacing Pako Ayestaran earlier this month, while Deportivo have won only two league games this season.

Valencia’s best early chance fell to midfielder Daniel Parejo, whose shot was well saved by Deportivo goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton.

The hosts responded through Colak’s close-range header, which was brilliantly kept out by Diego Alves.

Deportivo looked the more likely to open the scoring in the first half as Marlos Moreno fired narrowly wide before another low effort was turned away by Alves.

From the resulting corner Deportivo broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time when Juanfran crossed for Colak to head home his first goal of the season.

Florin Andone went close to extending the home side’s lead soon after the restart, but was foiled by another Alves’ save before Valencia struck.

Nani’s shot from a tight angle was parried by Tyton and Rodrigo followed up to turn home the rebound in the 56th minute. — Agencies

Ljajic steals point for battling Torino

UDINESE — Torino striker Adem Ljajic denied Udinese a third straight Serie A win as he scored a late equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw on Monday.

With on loan Manchester City man Joe Hart in goal, Torino’s Marco Benassi scored the opener for the visitors but it was cancelled out by Cyril Thereau before Duvan Zapata fired Udinese ahead.

Ljajic then divided the spoils with his goal in the 77th minute.

Benassi seized on Andrea Belotti’s through ball to score in the 15th minute and it took the Bianconeri until the hour mark to equalise, with Thereau converting Silvan Widmer’s cross.

Zapata put Udinese ahead in the 70th minute, but Ljajic earned Torino a point with his low drive seven minutes later.

In another match, Palermo sank further into the relegation mire after suffering a 2-1 defeat at Cagliari.

Two goals from captain Daniele Dessena inflicted a fourth straight defeat on Roberto De Zerbi’s men, who are 19th.

Ilija Nestorovski did pull a goal back for Palermo, but it was too little, too late. — Agencies

David Luiz

Don Conte’s impact

LONDON — Victor Moses admitted he likes manager Antonio Conte shouting instructions during Chelsea games because it ensures he stays in the right position.

Conte, nicknamed the Godfather by Italy players when he handled the national team, is renowned for his tendancy standing on the touchline speaking to his players.

“Conte’s touchline antics keeps me focussed. It’s also important to understand your teammates. I have got Cesar Azpilicueta there, the spare rightback, who is behind me, and he communicates with me and really helps me out to make sure I am in the right position,” the 25-year-old who has been utilised as a right wingback for the past four games told Sky Sports.

“It’s very good to link up with Pedro or Willian, too. They know when it’s time for me to go or when not to go.

“We speak to each other and we look at each other’s movement to make sure we are doing the right thing on the pitch.

“Defensively we all work as a unit in training and the manager is on top of us to make sure we are solid.”

Chelsea sit just one point behind leaders Manchester City, who are tied with Arsenal and Liverpool on 23 points, after goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa secured a 2-0 win for Chelsea over Southampton on Sunday.

Defender Luiz believes there is a long way to go before the title will be decided and revealed the players are not getting carried away.

Luiz told Chelsea TV: “It’s just the beginning. We need to keep our feet on the floor and keep
working hard.

“Conte works a lot with us and tries to give a lot of information to us to prepare the plan for the games in the best way.

“The Premier League is never easy and if you sleep one minute you start to lose,
and then you can lose one, two or three matches. You need to be awake all the time.” — Agencies

Allen: Swans can bounce back

STOKE — Midfielder Joe Allen tipped former club Swansea to start climbing the Premier League despite setting up two of Stoke’s goals in a 3-1 win at bet365 Stadium on Monday.

Striker Wilfried Bony ended his drought with a brace against the side for whom he scored 25 goals in 54 top-flight games — both laid on by Allen.

The Potters’ other strike, which arrived after Wayne Routledge’s equaliser, came via an Alfie Mawson own goal.

“They (Swansea) were good. Even at 3-1 they still looked a threat,” Allen told
Sky Sports.

“We didn’t quite wrap the game up as well as we could have — the general performance you can see they’re a really good team.

“I’m confident they’ll do fine this year and I’m hopeful they’ll be able to turn things round like we have and climb up the table.”

The result leaves Swansea’s American boss Bob Bradley with one point from his opening three fixtures.

“We’re still making mistakes which are costing us. You look at all parts to see how we can get a little bit better,” said Bradley.

“It’s definitely concerning and as I mentioned when things are going a little bit in the wrong direction it takes a strong effort to turn things around.”

Stoke picked up just three points from their first seven league games but have now won three in a row to climb to 12th.

“Our attacking play was excellent — we had any number of chances which could have gone in for us but we got the job done,” said Stoke manager Mark Hughes.

“It was important to get that third win — it’s very difficult in the Premier League for teams at our level.

“We’ve been able to do it three times now and that’s enabled us to get in a position we feel comfortable in — we don’t feel we’re a bottom half team.

“We’re pushing to get back into the top 10 like we have been the last three years.”
— Agencies

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In love for Real

MADRID — Attacker Gareth Bale could retire at Real Madrid after inking a new deal until 2022.

Bale, 27, joined Real from Tottenham in 2013 and developed into a key figure after a difficult start.

The Wales international won two Champions League titles since his move to Real and is determined to secure even more silverware before hanging up his boots.

When asked if he could imagine seeing out his career at Real, Bale told reporters: “Yeah, I can see that.

“I am very happy here, getting more comfortable every year. My family is happy here and my Spanish is improving.

“When I first came here, I wanted to succeed and win trophies.

“To renew my contract is another dream come true. I hope to win more trophies and titles.

“We want to win every trophy, every year. We can keep winning trophies, the Champions League and La Liga.”

Bale has had his good and bad times at Real, but he has made it clear he never considered leaving Spain.

“My time here has changed me quite a lot. I’ve grown up as a person. I wanted to try something different when I joined Real and that’s never easy,” he said.

“British players have not always been successful abroad. I had one difficult season, but it helped me.

“There are always bad moments, but what’s important is how you react.

“It is easy to pack up and leave, but you show more character if you work hard and make things work. It’s all a learning curve.

“But I have enjoyed it. I’ve loved every minute of it.

“The most important thing is I feel happy and loved by the fans.

“Winning the Champions League was the pinnacle. We live for the Champions League. We give everything for every trophy, but the Champions League is extra special.”

Champions Real play Legia Warsaw away in their Group F match tomorrow without the services of centreback Pepe.

Pepe is out for a number of weeks because of a thigh injury suffered in Real’s 4-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

He underwent a series of tests to determine the extent of the injury and Real announced the 33-year-old has been diagnosed with a muscular problem.

“After tests carried out Monday on Pepe, he has been diagnosed with a grade two muscle injury in the femoral biceps of his left leg,” read a club statement.

Pepe’s injury provides more bad news for manager Zinedine Zidane, who is already without fellow centreback Sergio Ramos who is down with a knee injury. — Agencies

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Gotze
wants to make up for
‘lost’ final

DORTMUND — Borussia Dortmund ace midfielder Mario Gotze dreams of reaching the Champions League final this season after missing the showpiece when they last made it in 2012-13 due to injury.

The Germany international returned to Dortmund this season after an underwhelming spell with Bayern Munich.

Dortmund will secure qualification to the last 16 if they defeat Sporting Lisbon at home tomorrow (3.45am) and Gotze is using the pain of 2013 as motivation.

“I almost had the chance but injury denied me,” Gotze told Uefa’s website.

“To do it would be my biggest dream come true. I’ve been working every day for it.

“I have positive memories of 2012-13 because we got to the final, but it was a pity we weren’t able to crown the season by winning the cup.

“That was a long time ago and I’m focusing on the future.

“We have the potential and a great coaching staff as well as great team spirit. That’s the most important thing.

“Of course it’s going to be difficult to achieve our objectives, but the fact we have such ambitions is typical of Borussia Dortmund.” — Agencies

Kasper Schmeichel

Home sweet home

LEICESTER — It is the club that Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has been to watch more than any other. More than even Manchester United.

Copenhagen are the Schmeichel family’s local club. Their stadium, Telia Parken, is just a two-minute walk from his house in Denmark.

Schmeichel has played there on numerous occasions, too, as the Parken is where Denmark’s national team play.

So, when Leicester take on Copenhagen in the Champions League tomorrow (3.45am), Schmeichel might be forgiven if he accidentally heads for the home dressing room, reported Leicester Mercury.

He knows plenty of the Copenhagen team, too. At least eight of their squad have played with Schmeichel in the Denmark team.

“I know all about them, they’re good lads very honest and hard workers,” said Schmeichel

Schmeichel and his Leicester teammates got the better of their first meeting, a fortnight ago, with a 1-0 win at King Power Stadium to go five points clear in Group G.

Schmeichel was key to the win, when he was on hand to deny Denmark teammate Andreas Cornelius with a stunning save.

There is plenty at stake once again as The Foxes know a win will guarantee them a place in the knockout stages.

“They’re going to be a very tough ask,” said Schmeichel.

“On a personal note I’m looking forward to playing against a Danish team in Denmark, it will be fantastic.”

Schmeichel says there is no personal allegiance. This is not a case of profession versus heart.

“I was brought up here and have no allegiances,” he said

“I follow Danish football but I don’t support a particular team. I have a lot of friends who play in the Danish league.

“Copenhagen are my local club and the club I’ve been to watch more than anybody else.

“The Parken is also the national stadium, so I know it like the back of my hand. It’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to it.” — Agencies

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