Irfan Bakti: 'The players need to raise their game against every opponent, and not just when we face our main rivals.'
GEORGE TOWN: Felda United coach Irfan Bakti described his team’s 0-1 Premier League defeat to Kedah in Alor Setar on Friday night as a double blow.
Sitting second in the standings, Felda now have to worry about catching up with leaders Police, who are six points ahead, while watching their backs as Penang are just one point behind them.
Kedah’s 18-year-old striker Shafiq Ahmad scored from a goalmouth melee in injury time on Friday to end Felda’s eight-game winning streak in the league.
The second defeat of the season for Irfan’s men prevented them from closing the gap with Police, who drew 1-1 with UiTM FC earlier in the day.
“We were on a roll after winning eight games in a row. Sadly, the momentum was lost and we need to start all over again. I hope this is just a momentary setback which can be overcome in the next match,” said Irfan on Saturday.
“This defeat is a double blow because we also missed the opportunity to pile pressure on Police by cutting their lead to three points. Unfortunately, we played below par against Kedah. We tried to maintain a 0-0 scoreline until the final whistle but got punished by a late strike.”
Irfan admitted that following the defeat, Felda also have to watch out for other teams trying to snatch the coveted second position from them.
Only the top two Premier League teams at the end of the season will be promoted to the Super League.
Penang, who beat Perlis 2-1 at the City Stadium, are currently third on 33 points.
“Felda still need to face Police and Penang in our run-in period, and these two matches will be the turning point of our season. It will be good if we can snatch points away from both of them,” said Irfan.
“There is also the danger of Felda dropping points against the other four sides we have yet to play. Both our defeats this season came against teams below us. The players need to raise their game against every opponent, and not just when we face our main rivals.”
Before the defeat in Alor Setar, Felda’s only other league defeat was a 1-2 setback to Negri Sembilan in February.
Besides taking on leaders Police (June 16, away) and Penang (June 13, home), Felda’s other remaining league matches are against SPA Putrajaya (Friday, home), Johor Darul Ta’zim II (June 9, away), UiTM FC (June 20, home) and Perlis (June 24, away).
Apart from challenging for the Premier League title and promotion, Felda are also still in the running for the FA Cup competition.
The Planters drew their semi-final first leg against Kelantan 3-3 in Kota Baru, and will host the return leg at the Shah Alam Stadium on May 31.