Nov 11, 2021 - FAS
Selangor FC ended their TM Piala Malaysia 2020 group stage with smiles, edging Perak FC 2-1 in Ipoh on Wednesday, November 10. Not only did they come-from-behind win provide a much-needed boost ahead of the quarter-final stage, but the match also showed that the Red Giants have what it takes to navigate the impending knockout phase.
A Bigger Squad
Against Perak, two more reserve players were handed their first-team debuts; attacking player Saiful Iskandar Adha Saiful Azlan and left-back Aidil Azuan. They displayed mature performances to prove their abilities, especially in the first half when the team was trailing.
The match also saw the return of Germans Tim Heubach and Manuel Konrad following long injury lay-offs, as they were given the first 45 minutes to recover their match fitness.
The success of the four players' performances on Wednesday varied, but their availabilities will surely enlarge the pool of players from which head coach Karsten Neitzel can draw upon in the knockout stage.
Nothing beats the feeling of snatching a win from the jaws of defeat, and last night was the fourth time that Karsten's charges have done it this year. While there is no beating around the bush about the mistake that led to the home team's only goal of the match, it is the Red Giants' doggedness in turning the match around that deserves discussions. And two men deserve most of the praise when their individual efforts eventually led to the win.
While Sean Selvaraj has not quite topped the scoring chart this season, he has nevertheless been an important attacker through his runs and deliveries. During the match, he constantly threatened the opposition defense, stretching them and creating gaps. He then capped off his good work with a goal that he scored himself, poking in a 72nd-minute equalizer.
The second player is one who had joined Selangor FC ahead of the 2019 season; Wan Zack Haikal. While Sean's performance in the match was a textbook example of a hardworking poacher, Wan Zack showcased the individual brilliance of a super-sub. Coming on in the 83rd minute for Danial Asri, he only needed two minutes to strike when the team was awarded a free-kick 25 meters out. Stepping up to it confidently, he gave the ball a hopeful kiss before curling it over the wall, past Hafizul Hakim, and into the net for the winner.
Last night's win proved that every single squad member of the team can be depended upon if they are given the time to recover their form. Regardless of the challenges that will be faced in the next stage of the competition, our Red Giants on the pitch or the bench will be up to the task. Don't write off any of them just yet.
All Key Objectives Fulfilled
While some may criticize the manner in which the match was won, it must be noted that the clash was never going to be an easy one. An away encounter, it was also one that the home team had surely wanted to win as it was their final match of the season, in order to end the year on a positive note.
On Selangor's part, the match offered no improvements in terms of standings as the team had already sealed their runner-up finish in the group and quarter-final spot. So the boss also took the chance to give playing minutes to reserve squad members and our boys who have just recovered, to rest a few key players, all the while still retaining the objective of winning the match.
In the end, the fringe players received more competitive minutes, our key players were given a breather, and the three points were secured, and the Red Giants are now well-prepared to face the quarter-finals.
By: Zulhilmi Zainal