Sunday, 30 March 2014 | MYT 4:56 PM
Elephants told to stay focused
Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme has been a big hit for Pahang this season. - filepic
PETALING JAYA: The high-riding Pahang team have been warned to keep their feet on the ground.
The Elephants are on top of the 12-team Super League standings for the first time since the competition kicked off three months ago.
Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan said that it feels good to be at the top.
But he is also cautious of the tough challenges ahead.
“Yes, the pressure builds up from now ... it will become more difficult to maintain our spot at the top,” he warned.
The former national skipper has advised his players not to get carried away as “the competition is only near the halfway mark and there is still a lot of work to do if we want to be crowned champions”.
He also pointed out that the support of the Elephant Army (Pahang supporters) has played a big role in the team’s strong showing, especially in their home matches at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan.
Pahang have been unbeaten at home since their M-League campaign began on Jan 17, when the Elephants beat Lions XII 1-0 in the Charity Shield match.
“We are a settled team now ... with the right players in the right positions. In fact, we made only one change to the line-up this season,” Zainal said in reference to Nigerian striker Dickson Nwakaeme, who has fitted in well and forged a good understanding with the other forwards – Argentine Matias Conti, Azamuddin Akil and Fauzi Roslan.
The 52-year-old former international has made a huge impact with Pahang since replacing Australian Ron Smith in mid-February.
Pahang were ninth in the standings with just six points from five matches when Smith left after deciding not to renew his three-month contract. His last game as coach of Pahang was against Terengganu – which the Elephants lost 2-0 – on Feb 15.
Pahang have since surged to the top with 19 points from 10 matches – from four wins (beat Armed Forces 4-1, Sarawak 3-1, PKNS FC 3-1 and Perak 2-0) and a draw (2-2 with Kelantan). Terengganu and Selangor are two points behind, although both teams have a game in hand.
Zainal’s first match in charge of the Elephants was an FA Cup quarter-final, second-leg match against Police on Feb 18. Pahang won the game 2-1 to advance 3-2 on aggregate into the semi-finals.
Pahang’s next Super League game is against T-Team in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday.