PETALING JAYA: After being sent off twice in three appearances, Malacca Telekom’s Cameroonian defender Njoh Njoh Mpondo should be every inch a villain.
Strangely, his coach Irfan Bakti is full of praise for him.
In their opening match against Public Bank, Mpondo received two yellow cards and was suspended for their second mach against Perak.
Last Saturday, referee Noor Azman Nordin of Negri Sembilan red carded Mpondo for a late tackle on MPPJ striker Farid Dewan in the 70th minute.
Instead of being furious, coach Irfan was singing the praises of Mpondo for the late tackle.
“Njoh Njoh saved us, that’s what happened. Our defence was not well organised. It was a long through ball and Farid had beaten all the defenders, including Njoh Njoh, and had with only our goalkeeper Zainal Rabin to beat. He would have scored if Njoh Njoh had not stopped him. Njoh Njoh committed a professional foul to stop Farid,” said Irfan.
“I agree with the referee ... he was right to send off Njoh Njoh. But Njoh Njoh did the right thing to prevent Farid from scoring.”
Irfan is also not overly concerned with Mpondo not being available for two matches.
“I know it doesn’t look good. Njoh Njoh had never caused this kind of problems last season. He only got sent off once after receiving two yellow cards during one match in the Premier League.
“I have discussed it with him. It won’t happen again,” said Irfan.
Mpondo, however, disputed the decision made by referee Noor.
“It’s true I tried to stop Farid. But there was hardly any contact. I don’t think it warrants a red card. I was going down and stretched my leg to stop him,” said Mpondo.
“I know I let the team down after being sent off. I know I play a big role in defence. They need me and I won’t be there to help them.”
Telekom are currently third in the Super League with seven points from four matches.
Telekom take on Sabah this Saturday before playing against Kuala Lumpur in an FA Cup first round match next Wednesday. Mpondo is suspended from both matches.