|FROM JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Khalis Rifhan
Warriors FC started the night at the bottom of Group E and staring at a possible exit from the AFC Cup, but a hard fought 1-0 victory over Churchill Brothers reignited their hopes of qualification to the knock-out stages.
With their win at the Jalan Besar Stadium and Kitchee FC's 3-1 defeat to Semen Padang, the group has been thrown wide open with two more matches to go.
Although they are still at the bottom of the group, the Warriors are only a point behind third-placed Churchill and trail second-placed Kitchee by three. Semen Padang sit comfortably at the top, with 10 points from four matches.
With all to play for in the remaining two matches, Warriors coach V. Selvaraj believes his team will be able to do the unthinkable.
“I am very confident [of qualifying to the next round] and this win is very important for us and they [the team] deserve this win," he declared.
“Looking at the other result, we stand a good chance. I told the boys what we are playing two home matches and we should get full points from it. Even if we get a win against Semen Padang, which is quite tough, I still think the decider will be the match in Hong Kong.
“With that confidence, the boys started to believe in themselves and the win gives a lot of trust in themselves and the team.”
Although the winning goal was an own goal by Churchill captain Ravanan Dharmaraj, Selvaraj feels that the most important thing is the three points, and says they will get stronger when some players return from the treatment table.
“We still created a few other chances but just could not score," he said. "Eventually, we got the goal and that is what matters.
“There are players coming back from injury and they give me more options. I am still yet to get my full team and am still finding the right balance, and the priority is to stable [stabilize] the defence.”
Churchill technical director Subhash Bhowmick felt that his team was not able to fully focus on the match due to several factors, but added that they could have done better in the lead-up to the goal.
“I am not disappointed nor am I surprised at the result as the humidity level is too high and we are still trying to recover from the fatigue from our 14-17-hour journey," he explained.
“We did miss our chances but we did [make] some serious mistakes, like the goal that we conceded. Our full-back went to attack and left lots of space in that area; it happens. We have to pay the price.”
The Warriors might be inadvertently helped out by Churchill's excellent domestic form, where the I-League side are leading in the title race.
“The thing is, we are in this very serious business back home," Bhowmick said.
"We are at the top of the league and have four more matches to go.”