BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
After Selangor wingback Syahmi Safari was not fielded in their 2-0 Super League opener win over Kuala Lumpur last Sunday, he was handed a start by head coach Maniam Pachaiappan against Melaka United on Wednesday.
The Malaysia U23 international emphatically repaid Maniam's faith by scoring a brace in against the Mousedeers, in the league match that was held at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium.
Amazingly, both his goals came out of nowhere. With the match was tied at 1-1, the 20-year threw himself into the path of Melaka goalkeeper Zamir Selamat's harried clearance at the edge of the visitors' box. He managed to block it, and the ball fortuitously fell into his path to slot home.
In the dying minutes of the match at 3-1, fed a pass by Indonesia U23 international Evan Dimas Darmono down the right flank, Syahmi killed the game by smashing the ball in from a tight angle, through the narrow gap left between Zamir's outstretched arm and the near post.
Speaking to the press after the win, Syahmi admitted that his hunger to play in a competitive match drove his sublime performance in the win.
The last competitive match he featured in was the Red Giants' last league match in 2017, against Pulau Pinang on October 28. He was then selected as one of Malaysia U23 squad members in their successful AFC U-23 Championship recently, but did not feature in any of the matches.
"First of all, praise Allah for my performance tonight," remarked Syahmi. "This is my first (competitive) match this year, as I had been sick earlier and only now recovered.
"I have to thank the coach and the staff for believing in me. I had only recovered and was thrusted into the starting eleven. My brace tonight will motivate me into performing better. I'm still young and have a lot to improve on. It's all down to teamwork. My first goal only happened because my teammates pressed for the ball as well.
The other two Selangor goals; netted in the eighth and 67th minute, were another player's brace; Spanish forward Rufino Segovia. The visitors' only goal was scored by Tiago Gomes; a stunning freekick at the half hour mark.