Even the reminder from Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan to his players of the need to play in the AFC Cup to improve their level ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final 2-1 win over Felda United on Saturday , did not see them inspired.
For the first 30 minutes, they players had it all wrong, to the annoyance of Zainal.
But Pahang regrouped then after and played even better after receiving the hair dryer treatment in the dressing room during the half time break.
Zainal, who was disappointed with the attitude of the players early in the game, was proud his substitutions saved the day. First, 70th minute substitute Faizol Hussin, who put Pahang in the final, cancelled Edward Junior Wilson’s first half goal with a stunning shot from outside the box – yet again.
A minute before stoppage time, another substitute Zesh Rehman stretched to save the ball from going out and squared it to Dickson Nwakaeme for a simple tap-in to ensure Pahang won their third trophy in just over seven months.
Pahang had won the Malaysia Cup last November and lifted the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup at the start of this season.
“I told them during a high-tea before the match that we need to play in the AFC Cup to raise our level. We would be stuck at the same level so long as we are still playing in the M-League only,” said Zainal.
“I can’t accept how we played in the opening 30 minutes. We appeared shocked…. perhaps it was the huge Pahang turnout or even took Felda for granted, something I harped against for the last one week.
“I took the players to task in the dressing room and thankfully we had a better second half. The players showed desire. The substitute who came on changed the game too. I am proud of their attitude. They understood their role and strived to ensure we won.
“Faizol proved himself once again and honestly he is a first eleven material… its the same for Fauzi Roslan and Zesh Rehman,” Zainal added.
For Zainal, the win was also one up on his former coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim, who alongside Wan Jamak Hassan guided Malaysia in the pre-World Cup qualifiers in 1997.
But Zainal downplayed the fact.
“I don’t see it that way. Winning and losing is part and parcel of coaching. We all go through it at some point. We can’t be boasting when it our turn to taste success.
“But yes I am proud of winning the FA Cup again. I won many trophies as a player and want to do the same as a coach,” said Zainal.