Three-goal Arif takes flight to steer JDT into final

Fiery form: JDT’s Arif (left) tries to get past Penang’s Mohd Adib Ra’op during the FA Cup clash. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim’s young winger Arif Aiman Hanapi is in full flight in the FA Cup.

The 20-year-old showed that he has more in his arsenal than silky dribbling skills and superb crosses as he hit a hattrick in the Southern Tigers’ 6-1 mauling of Penang in the semi-final at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri on Friday.

His inspirational display earned him a standing ovation when he was taken off in the 80th minute.

Arif, whose strikes in the 48th, 51st and 62nd minutes were also his first three goals for JDT this season, was thrilled to play a big part to get his team into the final.

“I’m at a loss for words. I still can’t believe I scored a hattrick. I have showed that I can also be a goal scorer now. The next step is to win the Cup,’’ he said.

Arif added that JDT’s new coach Hector Bidoglio has made an immediate impact by motivating the players to go for the kill.

‘’The coach emphasises the need for us to stay highly motivated to win. That’s the mindset we must have to keep winning.’’

JDT’s other goals were scored by Brazilian Bergson Da Silva (20th minute), Argentinian Fernando Forestieri (24th) and substitute Syahmi Safari (92nd).

Penang replied through Lucas Espindola in the 55th minute.

Meanwhile, Forestieri joined the chorus of praises for Arif, whom he said truly deserved his hattrick.

“He has been amazing for us and I’m so happy to see him finally score. There’s more to come from him as he’s inspired and motivated to contribute more. Just watch out for him,’’ he said.

JDT last won the FA Cup in 2016 and with the form they are in, they are certainly the hot favourites.

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