DEZ CORKHILL is:
“PRESSURE MATCHES” SHOWCASE THE PROGRESS OF KUALA LUMPUR CITY
When Kuala Lumpur City run out onto the Cheras pitch on Sunday night they’ll have the chance to do something that no KL team has achieved since October 1992. That is to secure a berth in the knock-out stages of the Piala Malaysia. Victory against Penang will see “the City Boys” in an impregnable position to progress from the group – no matter what the score in the Pahang vs Sarawak United match.
But – and it’s a big But – any other result would pile intense pressure onto the last fixture of the campaign against Sri Pahang in Kuantan. There’s an old adage that “good players respond positively to pressure” – KL City have good players.
FAILING THE PRESSURE TEST IN 2011:
The last time Kuala Lumpur had a realistic chance of progression to the knock-out stages of the 100-year old Competition was September 27th 2011. Selangor were the opposition at Shah Alam Stadium where, having posted two wins and three draws from the 5 matches, Kuala Lumpur went into the game knowing a draw would be sufficient to secure a place in the Quarter Finals. A couple of weeks earlier the teams had shared the points from a goalless draw at Selayang, and so the 2011 KL had few reasons to fear Selangor.
Sharom Kalam gave KL the lead 8-minutes before half time with a header, and all was looking good for KL and T-Team (for whom Indra Putra Mahayuddin was on target for in a 6-0 romp over PDRM) to progress to the Quarter Finals. But Selangor would equalise courtesy a Razman Roslan volley with 25 minutes to play.
This was a pressure situation for Kuala Lumpur to keep their cool. They couldn’t.
Selangor found a winner when Safiq Rahim’s free-kick was headed home by Amri Yahyah on 75 minutes. Razip Ismail’s team battled for the equaliser but Selangor held on to secure the place in the knockout stages. They would lose in the semifinals, whilst Kuala Lumpur were about to enter the darkest days of their history as they would be relegated from the top flight the following season, and would descend to the FAM League.
ENJOY THESE GAMES:
Kuala Lumpur are in very different state to the team that played a decade ago. There has been so little for KL supporters to shout about in the 21st century that to have this kind of “must produce” scenario is a huge step forward by the club in 2021. This season has been a good time to be a Kuala Lumpur City supporter.
The whole renaissance of Kuala Lumpur City football Club over the last 18 months means that the team are now involved in more games that really “matter”. More “pressure” games to embrace. A win over Penang and there’s the intense challenge of the Malaysia Cup Quarter finals to look forward to. Anything less than a win on Sunday, and there’s a nerve-wracking trip to Kuantan to take on a red-hot Sri Pahang.
Isn’t it great to be involved in matches that really have something riding on them? These are the kind of games that good Coaches, players and teams thrive upon.
The opportunity offered by the promotion season of 2020 hasn’t been squandered. Bojan Hodak has built a team that are generally miserly in defence, and have grown more prolific at the other end of the pitch the longer the season has gone on. Tests have been passed and new standards set along the way. The 18-match unbeaten home run; the highest ever league position in the professional era; the longest unbeaten sequence of matches this century. Landmarks that have shown the promise of the team.
But now, starting against Penang, the progress of the team will be measured by the next dimension; responding positively to pressure. To quote the late, great, Kobe Bryant: “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” KL City now go into the next phase of their development. (Sporting) Pressure and the Challenge.
It’s a positive time to be a KL City supporter again. Enjoy the tension.