Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan was disappointed with the result when his team went down by a solitary goal to Hong Kong’s South China in a Group G AFC match at Darul makmur stadium on Wednesday night, but was full of praise of his players’ effort and performance.
“The result certainly does reflect our performance. We had 80 percent possession and numerous goal chances but no goals to show. South China on the other hand had two chances and were virtually defending for most of the time, but they scored and returned home with full points,” said Zainal.
Pahang took the field with four key players missing from the lineup – strikers Dickson Nwkaeme and Matias Conti who were nursing injuries while midfielder Azamuddin Akil too was injured.
Skipper Razman Roslan was serving his second match suspension for a red card collected in the opening match against Yadanarbon.
“But the players who took the field, played their hearts out and the only thing they did wrong was not finding the net.”
With the loss, Zainal said for his team to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Cup competition is to win the remaining three matches.
“We have put ourselves in spot with the loss to South China and we are left with no choice but to win our remaining three matches to stay in the hunt to qualify for the knockout stages as the top two teams in the Group,” said Zainal accessing his team’s situation.
The Elephants have four points from their 2-0 away win over Yadanarbon and scoreless draw against Global at home previously.
On Tuesday night Pahang were at least good for one point as they fought tirelessly to find the equaliser after the 13th minute goal scored by South China’s Chan Siu Ki.
But Zainal felt that they were even good for an outright win, if only they had taken their chances.
Zainal said that he was aware that it was going to be an uphill task to collect full points from their remaining three games, but sees no other way for them to secure their place in the knockout stages.
“South China are comfortable with full points of nine from three matches, while Yadnarbon has three points and Global one point. Both these teams mathematically still have a chance to finish second in the table and they are not going to ease up on us.”
In the meantime, goals from Djedje Djawa and Win Htay Kyaw gave Yadanarbon their first-ever AFC Cup win as they defeated visitors Global FC from the Philippines 2-0 on Wednesday at Mandalay’s Mandalar Thiri Stadium.
“Whether we are going to have a have a full squad or still be plagued by injuries is left to be seen. But our mission no matter what is clear – to win all three matches.”
Pahang play South China away on April 15, followed by Yadanarbon at home ofApril 29 and finally Global in Manila on May 13.
South China’s Argentinian coach Mario Gomez was naturally delighted to have picked up three points and top the table at the end of the first round.
“We had come here expecting a tough match as Pahang is a formidable side. But we were happy to hear that their top two foreign strikers were not taking the field. However, I told my players still not to treat Pahang lightly and they proved me right,” said Gomez.
“We may have won by only one goal, but it is still a win and we collected three points. Pahang did give us some anxious moments but we did well to keep them at bay.
“Pahang had chances to score against us, but so did well. So I suppose everything works out even.”
Gomez said that he expects another tough encounter when they host Pahang, but said his team will be prepared and this time they will have the home ground advantage.
Group G STANDINGS