Facing up to reality

Close watch: Perak’s Guilherme De Paula (centre) is challenged by two Felda United players during their Super League match last week. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: A dose of reality was what it took for Mehmet Durakovic to spur Perak to a three-match winning run.

After experiencing a 7-0 demoralising defeat to leaders Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) three weeks ago, the Australian coach was, for once, lost for words.

With his players slumped in the dressing room, he pondered how their season would pan out.

The next day, Durakovic sat down with the players and told them the hard truth of what would happen if they don’t buck up.

It woke up the players and Perak went on to beat UiTM (1-0), Police (2-0) and Felda United (5-1).

They are currently second in the league with 17 points and are gunning for their fourth successive win against Pahang at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan today.

“After that JDT massacre, I laid the cards on the table. Among other things, I told them that they definitely can do better than this,” said Durakovic.

“The Perak I know always fight and I never lost my faith in these bunch. We had some injuries which bogged us down but during this difficult time, some local boys showed what they are made of and the last-three results are testament of their abilities.

“Eky (Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi) is scoring goals and the rest are working extra hard to ensure Perak remain in the hunt for the AFC Cup.”

Pahang, who are sixth with 13 points, will be a formidable foe especially in Kuantan.

Although Dollah Salleh’s squad are going through a roller coaster ride with four wins, four defeats and a draw, Durakovic said they are still a top side.

“They are always fighting for the top spots. Right now, the competition is open because of the short season.

“Even though they lost some key players, their youngsters have been promising and that is something we have to look at.

“Finishing second will be an achievement because the league is strong. JDT are in a different class and there’s Terengganu, Kedah, Selangor and Pahang. All top, top teams.”

Shahrel is the team’s top scorer with nine goals eclipsing the more fancied Guilherme De Paula, who only has three under his belt.

Durakovic, however, is not worried.

“To be honest, I don’t care who scores. I want everyone to work for the team and De Paula is doing just that.

“He holds the ball well and makes important passes. He is still a key player.”

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