Najmudin goes from bench warmer to super sub in Cup success

Champions: The national Under-22 team celebrating after lifting the Merlion Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium. — FAM

PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim II striker Najmudin Akmal Kamal Akmal has emerged as the super sub for Malaysia as they finally lifted the Merlion Cup after 41 years on Sunday.

The national Under-22 team edged Hong Kong 2-1 in the final at the Jalan Besar Stadium and the 19-year-old Najmudin got the ball rolling for the Young Tigers after coming off the bench.

He headed home a cross from Haqimi Azim Rosli in the 75th minute before defender Safwan Mazlan’s powerful piledriver four minutes later put Malaysia 2-0 up.

Lau Ka Kiu scored Hong Kong’s consolation goal in the 80th minute.

It was the second time that Najmuddin had worked his magic after coming on as a substitute as he also scored in the 4-2 semi-final win over Cambodia.

In the final, he also caught the eye with his trickery and industry, where he pressed opponents relentlessly into making mistakes which the Malaysian front line capitalised on.

Najmuddin was grateful to coach E. Elavarasan for giving him the chance to come on in the important games.

“He gave me a great opportunity and I’m glad I made good use of it. The Merlion Cup was a valuable experience for me as I hope to earn a spot in the SEA Games squad.’’

Meanwhile, Elavarasan said the Merlion Cup success is a huge boost for his charges ahead of the Cambodia Games, which starts from May 5-17.

“This is a morale booster for our boys to do well in the SEA Games. We’ll try our best to keep it up and stay consistent till May.”

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