BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor fell to their third Super League defeat of the season, when they conceded T-Team's late winner in their encounter on Wednesday.
Although the defeat itself was not a shocking one considering the Red Giants have not been entirely consistent this season, and the Titans were high on confidence after having defeated Kedah 5-0 in the previous league round, the timing of the defeat could not have come at a more unfortunate time.
Before matchday 11 was played out, Pahang were second with 20 points, Kedah third with 19, Selangor fourth on 16, Perak fifth on 16, and Kelantan sixth on 15.
All the aforementioned teams except for Selangor drew in their respective matches, which meant that the Red Giants lost a golden chance to keep pace with Pahang and Kedah, and extend their gap with Perak and Kelantan.
Instead, Selangor dropped to sixth, and are currently tied on points with Kelantan and also T-Team in seventh.
More devastatingly, it means that they are also out of Pot 1 of the 2017 Malaysia Cup draw, and will face a tougher time in a cup competition that they have traditionally put more focus on.
Although a draw might have not helped them keep their distance with Perak and Kelantan, it would have been enough to let them stay in fourth, and in Pot 1.
This is not to mention that they are now four points adrift of their season objective of finishing in the top-three position.
Selangor boss Maniam Pachaiappan needs to acknowledge that his side are not good enough to challenge for the position, and use the coming mid-season transfer window to change things around.
New signings Juliano Mineiro and Victor Astafei have scored five and three goals respectively this season, but they have been lacking consistency in both their performances, as well as the ability to turn up for big matches.
Adam Nor Azlin has been unable to show his potential as a young forward despite having been given multiple opportunities, and having opened the season with a goal against Pulau Pinang.
Adam Nor Azlin celebrating his goal against Pulau Pinang earlier this season. Photo by Hazrin Mohd Zaidun/CSN
The midfield pairing of Saiful Ridzuwan Selamat and Abdul Halim Zainal has not exactly lit up the competition, and it's in the central midfield area that the Red Giants usually find themselves in trouble.
Defenders Bunyamin Omar and Razman Roslan have not been too shabby, but it can be seen that the Selangor defence is frayed around the edges. Bunyamin is well past his prime, while the 32-year old Razman should pass his in a couple of years' time. Furthermore, the leaks in the defence have mostly been plugged by Nigerian centre back Ugo Ukah, who from time to time can still have an off day, such as what happened in their round 8 home defeat to Perak.
First-choice custodian Khairulazhan Khalid has not caused plenty to get himself criticised, but the problem is in his backups. Should the Malaysia goalkeeper be injured, Maniam will be left with two young goalkeepers in the squad; Zarif Irfan Hashimuddin and Damien Lim who are not experienced enough to feature consistently in senior-level matches, and second goalkeeper Norazlan Razali. Norazlan's form has been woeful since the past season, as exemplified in their derby against PKNS FC earlier this season, whereby the former JDT man conceded five goals. That was also the last time he featured for Selangor.
Most fans understand that the players made available to him at the start of the season were not top-class material considering the board and financial disputes that were taking place at the time, but now that the issue has been settled and the ship has been steadied by new club president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal, Maniam must beg, wheedle and plead for access to a mid-season transfer fund.
If the Selangor FA fails to facilitate Maniam's squad reshuffle, the team may just fail to finish in a top-three position, and unable to mount a serious challenge in the Malaysia Cup later this year.