Nafuzi brings on dangermen at the right time to slay Panthers

Tight situation: Kedah’s Mohd Ariff Farhan tussling for the ball with a Penang player during their Super League match. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Coach Nafuzi Zain made the right call to bring in strikers Syafiq Ahmad and Ebenezer Assifuah at a crucial time to add sting to Kedah’s attack.

And it saw immediate results as Assifuah netted a goal in the 77th minute to give the Canaries a 1-0 win in the Super League game at the City Stadium in Georgetown on Saturday.

And Assifuah would not have been able to break the deadlock if not for Syafiq’s clever play.

Syafiq received an awkward pass from midfielder Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik but he showed the grace of a ballerina with his control and made a peach of a pass to Assifuah.

The Ghanaian feinted a Penang defender and fooled goalkeeper Sikh Izhan Nazrel Sikh Azman with a deft left-foot finish.

Nafuzi looked up to the skies and thanked the heavens as they conquered the northern derby clash and also snapped their two-game winless run in the league.

“That goal was a testament to our hard work in training,” said Nafuzi.

“The club are indeed going through problems off the field due to finances but as a coach, my job is to get the players to stay motivated and enjoy the game.

“Every time before the matches, I remind them of their purpose in the team - that they love the game, enjoy playing it and the results will come.

Questions were asked about his decision to start Serbian striker Milos Gordic, instead of Syafiq and Assifuah, but Nafuzi said it was all part of the plan.

“Penang are industrious and will tire you down physically. That is why I started Gordic. As the game went on, Penang slowed down, so I called in Pit (Syafiq) and Assifuah immediately,” he said.

“There is no magic in this. It was part of my tactical plan and I’m happy it worked. It was not about beauty, but efficiency.

“Gordic is hard working. Maybe he does not score often but he suits my game plan. I believe when he starts scoring more, people will see why we signed him.”

They will play Penang again but this time in the FA Cup quarter-final first-leg at the City Stadium in Georgetown on Friday.

“We are playing good football, creating chances, but our finishing has to be better. Our defence has to be solid but we will work on this before the next game,” added Nafuzi.

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Football , Super League , Kedah , Penang , Nafuzi Zain


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