PETALING JAYA: The worst seems to be over for Pahang and coach Dollah Salleh can finally afford to smile – thanks to his team’s improving performance in the Super League.The Elephants, bogged down by several issues, restarted the Covid-19 disrupted league on Aug 28 on the wrong foot.
Their Lebanese defender Khalil Khamis was stranded at his home country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thus weakening the defence.
The team’s injury list piled up as key players Dickson Nwakaeme, Herold Goulon and Muslim Ahmad joined the crocked list.
And last month, prized winger Mohamadou Sumareh left the team in a huff, claiming that they failed to pay his salary and joined Thai club Police Tero.
After initial hiccups which saw the team lose 2-3 to Johor Darul Ta’zim (Aug 28) and 0-1 to UiTM (Sept 5), they bounced back to beat Police 2-1 (Sept 12), drew 2-2 with Felda United (Sept 20) and recently beat Kedah 2-1 (Sept 26).
After nine matches, Pahang are now sixth in the 12-team standings with 13 points after nine matches.
Their final two matches are against Perak (Oct 3) and Tere-ngganu (Oct 10), and Dollah can afford to indulge in some wishful thinking.
“I believe we can get the maximum points against Perak and Terengganu to better our position in the standings. We need to maintain our focus. Our approach in taking one match at a time is working, ” said Zainal, a former international.
“After the season resumed, we lost two matches but with wins over Police and the draw with Felda, it seems there’s a change in the players’ mindset. They managed to cast aside their worries and have been producing results.
“Saturday’s win over Kedah is just perfect, especially after we draw our previous game. I hope it will inspire the players to go all out against Perak next.”
Dollah praised youngster Nik Muhd Sharif Haseefy Mohd Lazim for his sterling role in the win on Saturday night.
The match saw Kedah take the lead through Tchetche Kipre in the 15th minute before Adam Reed scored the equaliser in the 40th. Then came the all-important winner from Nik Sharif in the 46th minute at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
Dollah also added that he had to field the unfit Nwakaeme in the second half to pile the pressure on Kedah’s backline.
“My players gave their best. We dominated the first half but a mistake allowed Kedah to score first. However, we bounced back after the breather to seal the win, ” said the former national team coach.
“Nwakaeme is not 100% fit yet but I fielded him to disorientate Kedah. Although he is not fully fit, he did a good job.”
“Nik has something special to offer. He’s still young and the confidence level is not there yet.
“He always shines in training sessions. I didn’t expect him to score against Kedah but his strike early in the second half held us in good stead thereafter.”
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