Diligent Work, Superb Strikers, Outstanding Fans: Key Takeaways From Victory Over Kuching City

Selangor FC returned to Malaysia Cup action in style on Saturday, recording a 5-1 rout over Kuching City in their first-ever meeting to record their second win in Group B of the Malaysia Cup. The splendid result was produced thanks to several contributions.

1) Alex's attention-grabbing debut

The clash against Kuching City saw 21-year old Selangor FC 2 midfielder Alex Agyarkwa receiving his first-team debut, with the Ghanaian appearing from the starting line-up. He repaid head coach Karsten Neitzel's confidence in him, providing a debutant's eagerness, and more.

While the visitors initially made it a tough night for the Red Giants with their midfield pressing, Alex provided one way to overcome this by utilizing his individual technique. On numerous occasions, he used feints and dummies while in possession of the ball in order to get past his markers and move the ball up the pitch.

Having excelled in his debut and shown what he is capable of bringing to the team, he was rested in the second half. No doubt, we will see him in action again in the coming weeks.

2) Hard work makes the dream work

While the final scoreline may suggest to those who did not watch the match that it was an easy night for Karsten's charges, it was anything but. Kuching City arrived at the MBPJ Stadium with the objective of nicking a point from the encounter, and to this end, they kept it compact in the middle of the park and in the back.

The young side picked by the boss however remained cool with plenty of time on the clock, and kept chipping away at the opponent's defense.

While every single player worked hard to produce the win, two men stood out for their diligence; Jordan Ayimbila and Danial Asri. The two young players showed that they have the diligence to go far in their careers, chasing after every ball and harassing the defenders up the pitch. 

This quality and their combination finally helped the Red Giants break down the stubborn defense to retake the lead at a crucial point in the match.

In the 59th minute, the left-back won the ball outside of the Kuching City box, passed it to Alex, and ran straight into position at the edge of the penalty area, right in time to receive a stray ball that was knocked into his path. He then took a couple of steps before squaring it low, perhaps a little too close to goalkeeper Iqbal Sashimi.

But in a textbook case of making your own luck, Danial's sprint towards the goalmouth got him in the right position to stab the ball home when the goalie unexpectedly spilled what looked to be a routine catch, to put the hosts in the driving seat again.

3) Danial ready for bigger responsibilities

In Danial's case, the 21-year old forward showed that he can do more than simply work hard, and can be trusted to take on a starring role. Playing as the top striker in the absence of goal machine Ifedayo Olusegun who was rested due to injury concerns, the man from Rawang had a hand in all of Selangor's goals save for the last one.

His attempt led to Hein Htet Aung's 30th-second opener, he then scored the Red Giants' second and fourth goal himself, while Safuwan Baharudin's penalty goal came when the player who is also known as Chang was fouled in the Kuching City penalty box when going after a long pass from deep by Alex.

After his stunning performance, this is what he told reporters:

"In the first half I sat a little too high up the pitch which made things harder for me, so after the break, I changed tactics by running towards the defenders more, and this worked. I am grateful for the chance to start with the coach. I wanted to repay his confidence in me, so I'm really proud of the brace I scored tonight." 

4) Shahrel's hunger to do more

While Ifedayo's absence is rightly worrying, it is nevertheless a relief to see not just one, but two strikers rising up to the occasion on Saturday. Another forward to take the spotlight was Shahrel Fikri Fauzi, who came on in the second half.

This is all the more encouraging when considering that it was Shahrel's first match since May, due to a long injury lay-off. It has been a tough time for the Malaysia striker ever since joining early in the season, and it was inspiring to see the Red Giants faithful at the stadium cheering him on before he even stepped foot on the pitch when they saw him warm up early in the second half.

More applause ensued when he eventually came on, and Shahrel never looked back. He tormented the defense with his runs and dribbles, all while still letting Danial remain as the top striker. He could have scored with the last move of the game if Sean Selvaraj had not beaten him to Hein Htet’s looping cross, but no one is going to complain about the scorer with such a scoreline. If he keeps playing this way, it will not be long before Shahrel starts finding the back of the net again.

5) Outstanding fans

The supporters' presence is always needed and appreciated by Selangor FC. Don't take our word for it, here is what Karsten himself said about the home support against Kuching City.

"They're outstanding for us tonight. [Having the fans in the stadium] gives a totally different feeling to us, the staff, and me. For example, their reaction when Kuching City got the penalty, was outstanding." 

The club hopes to see more fans cheering the boys on in their next home match, the November 7 clash against Terengganu FC. The ticket announcement will be issued in the coming days.

By Zulhilmi Zainal