DEZ CORKHILL is:
KUALA LUMPUR CITY: STORY OF THE SEASON – (PART 5)
‘THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM’
29th September, 2021
In a 1 month period earlier in the League season, KL City conceded five goals in 4-games after the 88-minute mark to cost them 6 points – and spike morale in the team. One of the “positives” offered at this time was that “luck does even itself out” over the course of the season. Recent events seem to be proving that idiom to have some virtue which – in the short-form Malaysia Cup – can have a very positive impact.
Penang have enjoyed a wonderful revival this season that tops even the improvement at Cheras. Under Croatian Coach Tomas Trucha newly-promoted Penang achieved top-3 status in the League with former KL favourite Casagrande as the focal point of their attack. How to stop Casagrande and the aerial bombardment expected at the Bandaraya Stadium would be Hodak’s chief headache.
MALAYSIA CUP – GROUP MATCH
PENANG 1 KL CITY 1
Bandaraya Stadium, Penang
Paulo Josue remained an absentee from the starting XI selected by Bojan Hodak for the trip North to Penang in the second of 6 Malaysia Cup Group games whilst Zhafri Yahya came into midfield for Ryan Lambert as The City Boys prepared to face a team who had won the last two tight games between the teams at the Bandaraya Stadium, but who were in desperate need of a win in this game as they were coming off a 1-3 defeat to Sarawak Utd.
KL City’s form of 1 defeat in the previous 13 matches has made them a team more confident in their own abilities, and with the likes of Kenny Pal Raj and Danny Ting venturing forwards in the first half, the visitors had the better of the game. Defensively, the service to Casagrande was stopped at source and so the Brazilian had few chances to show his power.
That was until the 78th minute when Penang’s Tajik winger Sheridan Boboev whipped in a cross that, whilst looking for Casagrande, missed everybody and left Kevin Mendoza stranded as it nestled, untouched, in the far corner. Another tight Penang victory seemed likely.
Then KL City were rewarded for a never-say-die attitude, as well as the bit of the luck that had deserted them earlier in the season. Irfan Zakaria’s long pass forward was directed into the danger zone by Giancarlo Gallifuoco. Romel Morales reacted quickest and though his first shot was blocked he reacted first to bash the ball into an empty net for a deserved equalizer, and for his 3rd goal in 3-games.
Four points from 2 games with a month of rest to come. Next up, a double header with Group leaders Sarawak United. But that is for another day.
26th September, 2021
A best teams can be identified by whether or not the whole is greater than the collective parts of the team. Kuala Lumpur City circa 2021 are starting to be recognizably stronger as a team than the individual parts would suggest, and the club records are tumbling to prove it. Indeed, KL City’s fortunes have changed during the 2021 season to such an extent that a team so often regarded as a soft-touch in the Malaysia Cup were now a team many wanted to avoid in the Malaysia Cup draw.
Non-the-less, Coach Bojan Hodak had selection issues going into the match against Sri Pahang in the first of 6 really difficult Malaysia Cup games with Paulo Josue and Zhafri Yahya both considered unready to start the match – though Giancarlo Gallifuoco (GG) returned to the starting XI having missed the last league match.
MALAYSIA CUP – GROUP MATCH
KL CITY 3 SRI PAHANG 1
Cheras Stadium, Kuala Lumpur
25-seconds into the opening Piala Malaysia clash at Cheras, KL City learned how tough a time they were likely to face in their Group. Sri Pahang are perhaps considered the weakest of the 3 other teams in the Group (Premier league Champions Sarawak Utd and Malaysia Super League’s 3rd placed team, Penang, being the others), but suddenly Pahang’s South-Sudanese born Australian striker Kenny Athiu was clean through, one-on-one with Kevin Mendoza. Mendoza stood tall, and a Cheras crowd barely in its seats, breathed a collective sigh of relief.
One of the signs of a good team is that if one player is having difficulties, another will step up. In the 3-1 defeat of Sri Pahang, KL City showed SIX noticeable moments of players completely in support of each other.
Example no 1:
Came on 19 minutes when Danny Ting headed (or shouldered?) his second goal of the season. With the immense Sri Pahang centre back Herold Goulon given the role of picking up GG at set-pieces, Safee Sali picked out Danny Ting from a corner and the full back found the top corner of the net. This was no accident as barely 4-minutes earlier Ting had headed over from a Safee corner in a rehearsal of the goal.
Example no 2:
was in how J Partiban helped Danny Ting in his defensive duties to nullify the Sri Pahang’s always-dangerous Hidalgo. It meant Partiban’s attacking instincts were rarely used, but as value to the team his role was vital as Hidalgo had just 3-shots on goal – all from 25 yards+ – before being substituted after 60 mins.
Example no 3:
would follow early in the second half. Romel Morales’ selfless displays all-season haven’t had the recognition they deserve, but early in the second half he intercepted a Goulon pass and after Akram Mahinan played him in, Morales – for once – was the recipient of a touch of luck as the ball squirmed through Helmi Eliza’s grasp and trickled over the line. But Morales selflessness all season deserved it’s regard.
5-minutes into the second half, Kenny pal Raj was dispossessed in midfield. But the Ipoh born Kenny didn’t give it up and sprinted 10 yards to hassle Sri Pahang’s Yakubu Abubakar, and then sprinted another 10 minutes to hassle and tackle Azam Azih, and was then available to take a return pass from Morales to set up Safee Sali to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Safee didn’t convert, but the effort and willingness and persistence of Pal Raj was inspirational to view.
After 60 minutes, Sri Pahang Coach Dollah Salleh made a tactical change to move Goulon to a more attacking role, and for the next 10-minutes, KL City were under severe pressure. Several last-gasp challenges by GG and Ting, some cute interceptions from Akram and Lambert, and one outstanding save by Mendoza from Athiu saw KL City survive this barrage, and this led to …
Example no 6:
Barely 3-minutes after being introduced as substitute, Brazilian play-maker Paulo Josue’s free-kick found Morales to deflect home his second goal of the season. KL City’s strength-in-depth was apparent. The other men who came off the bench included Arif Syaqirin who would have a shot cleared off the line; Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Zhafri.
GG put through his on goal late on to take a slight gloss off the win. But this KL City team got their Malaysia Cup campaign off to a winning start with a performance that showed the virtues of team work, effort, tenacity, persistence and determination.