PKNP FC's fairy tale run in the Malaysia Cup continues, the latest achieving an astonishing 3-1 away win over Felda United in the quarterfinal first leg. The destiny of the tie is now in their own hands, for a historic place in the semi-final for the young club.
At the heart of the success achieved at Tun Abdul Razak Stadium on Friday night was none other than Shahrel Fikri, the forward who is fast making a name for himself in the domestic league.
Three away goals scored and all three by Shahrel, who also goes by the moniker 'Eky'. Having only recently earned his first international cap with Malaysia, Shahrel's rise mirrors that of his club.
It wasn't the perfect hat trick for Shahrel, two goals came from his right foot while the other with his left, but the joy gained from getting his first ever hat trick in his professional career in such a big occasions was priceless to Shahrel.
"It came as a surprise to me. When we go up against a Super League side, we don't target to get a hat trick. But when you get it, it gives you a very big boost to my confidence," said Shahrel to Goal today.
Shahrel put his performance and improvement not only down to the personnel at PKNP but also the Malaysia national team, whom he spent three weeks of training prior to the resumption of the domestic schedule.
Having spent time with players whom all play in a division higher than himself, Shahrel reckons that the gap is not that big between the Super League and Premier League teams.
"When I was with the national team, I take in all the advice from coach Nelo [Vingada] and I'm glad it has helped me. Even though PKNP were the underdogs, we showed that we can match some of the Super League teams," added Shahrel.
Hadin Azman pulled a goal back late on for Felda and that could potentially be the difference in the second leg. That is why Shahrel knows that the fight isn't won yet for PKNP and that they will need to retain their momentum and desire in Ipoh, if they are to reach the semi-final.
"The second leg will not be easy. Felda will come looking for goals and that means we have to keep our focus to ensure we get the win," warned Shahrel.
The second leg between PKNP and Felda will be played at Perak Stadium on Sunday 24 September.