PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) winger Arif Aiman Hanapi did not score goals or provided any assists against Kawasaki Frontale in the AFC Champions League but still got the attention of the opposition coach.
Toru Oniki was full of praise for the 21-year-old winger who caused problems on the left flank, to the extent that the Japanese club had to place two defenders to mark him.
And yet, the Malaysian Football League (MFL) most valuable player was able to wiggle past them with his superb dribbling.
The Japanese side eventually got a 1-0 win in the opening Group I encounter against JDT at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium on Tuesday, but Kawasaki’s coach said he would keep a close eye on Arif on their return fixture at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium on Nov 28.
“Arif was a threat to us throughout the game. He made a good impact for his team and definitely a troublemaker for us,” he said.
“We knew he’s talented even before the game but he still managed to create chances despite being strongly marked.
“For the next (home) match, we will take extra ‘care” of him for sure.”
JDT coach Esteban Solari was happy with Arif’s form.
“He shines every day. He has been scoring goals and creating chances for us throughout this season. He is a player with class and I know he will do even better in the Champions League,” said the Argentinian.
With such raving reviews, expect Arif to give another good show when JDT take on Negri Sembilan in the Malaysia Cup second-leg quarter-final at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri tomorrow.