Sime Darby's Croation import Mateo Roskam (left) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against Kelantan in their Super League match last month.
PETALING JAYA: The days of living in fear of relegation are over for debutants Sime Darby FC.
The club side were bottom of the 12-team Super League a couple of months ago and critics wrote them off as sure bets for the Premier League next season.
But they have since worked their way up and are now fifth in the standings with 25 points after 17 matches, nine points behind leaders Selangor. Sime Darby are even ahead of seasoned campaigners Kelantan and Sarawak.
Said head coach Ismail Zakaria: “The worst is over for us now. The players’ hardwork and persistence have paid off ... I’m proud of them.”
Ismail now wants his team to fulfil their top-six target.
“It has been a long hard climb. We need to stay focused in our remaining five matches. If we can sustain our form, I believe it is an achievable target,” said Ismail.
New transfer window signing Mateo Roskam of Croatia has been a revelation since his arrival last month. The 27-year-old lanky striker starred with a hat-trick in his debut against Kelantan (4-0) on April 15.
“Roskam has added bite in our attack. Besides scoring, he also assists in other areas. Since his arrival, we have won three out of our last five matches,” said Ismail.
Besides Roskam, the other foreigners are Ghanaian defender William Mensah, midfielders Dilshod Sharofetdinov of Uzbekistan and Mahmoud Amnah of Egypt.
Sime Darby’s success thus far has also been due to Ismail. He has been with the team since their inception in 2010.
Under Ismail, Sime Darby emerged as FAM Cup champions in 2010. And they finished in the top five in their 2011 Premier League season.
In 2012, they made waves in Malaysian football by becoming the first club side to reach the FA Cup final (they lost 1-0 to Kelantan). Last year, they finished runners-up in the Premier League to gain promotion to the top flight.