BOJAN: GETTING THROUGH IS WHAT MATTERED MOST
It did not matter to coach Bojan Hodak whether Kuala Lumpur City qualified first or second in the group as the only target was to advance to the AFC Cup knockout stage.
A 2-1 win over Singapore’s Tampines Rovers ensured that Kuala Lumpur is through to the Asean Zone semi-finals as the best-placed group runners-up, finishing one goal less than PSM Makassar after both ended with four points in Group H.
After Paulo Josue’s two early goals set the Malaysia Cup champions on the way, the reward for Kuala Lumpur is a trip to Hanoi to face Vietnam’s Viettel on Aug 10 while Makassar host Kedah on Aug 9
“The game was what we expected, and they like to have ball possession but we are a team that never has ball possession except versus Makassar and we know that if we have space we will create a lot of chances,” said Hodak.
“In the end, we created a lot of chances but our biggest problem this year is finishing again, and today you can see the same problem. So it could have been 6-1 or 2-2 but what is important is that our target is to get to the next round.
“I don’t think there’s much difference as first or second because in the end, all four teams who qualified are all good teams. It it will be a tough match because there are no easy teams in the next round.”
Boris Kopitovic’s goal before half-time made Kuala Lumpur’s chances of snatching top spot in the group with a three-goal win more difficult and in the end, Hodak was happy to get the win.
“We played high tempo in the first half and scored two goals and their one goal came from their only chance because somebody forgot the No 9 (Boris Kopitovic),” said Hodak, who guided Kelantan past the AFC Cup group stage in 2012 and 2013.
“In the second half it is normal we get results and it’s good for us especially to get to the next round. We passed the ball around and waited for counterattacks to create chances.
“It’s important to go through. We never thrash anyone 3-0 or 4-0 but we don’t lose by big margins either and always have tough matches, so overall I am happy with both matches.”
Hodak explained that he sent in left-back Declan Lambert for Kenny Pallraj at the half-time break to utilise Irfan Zakaria’s pace against the Tampines forwards.
“That was a tactical change because Declan was fresh and I needed fast players in the backline who can cover this, which was Irfan,” said Hodak. “Declan was better going up and creating damage on this side so we’re just tactically looking for a fresh player.
“Kenny did well in these two matches, in the first match he dominated but today, he’s playing for the team and I’m quite happy with him.”
For Tampines, it is back to domestic action as coach Gavin Lee conceded the game was lost in the first half.
“We got better in the second half but in the first half we were a bit rushed in decision-making,” he said. “KL couldn’t sustain the pressure they put on us in the first half and in the second we learned quickly.
“We didn’t give a good account of ourselves and have done relatively better in the last few campaigns and didn’t meet the objective to qualify in the group but we don’t have time to sulk and moan about it.”