|By Khalis Rifhan
Warriors FC head coach V.Selvaraj is confident of performing a Houdini-esque escape in the AFC Cup and qualify for the knock-out stages even though the Singapore Cup champions are languishing at the bottom of Group E ahead of their crucial encounter against Semen Padang.
Despite suffering consecutive defeats in the opening three matches, a win against Churchill Brothers of India in their previous match and coupled with favourable results from the other matches, Warriors are still in contention to end the group stage as runners-up and make it to the Round of 16.
“After the match against Churchill, the boys started to believe in themselves and the local matches that we have played have given us the confidence and the winning feeling,” said Selvaraj during the pre-match conference at Hotel Royal on Tuesday afternoon.
“It is a very important game for us and after beating Churchill here, most of us realised that we still have a chance of qualifying if we can beat Semen Padang.
“We know the situation we are in, even if we beat them (Padang) and Kitchee, we still need a favour from them (Padang) to beat Churchill. As long as mathematically we still have a chance, I believe we can make it.”
Sharing Selvaraj’s sentiment is defender Zulfadli Zainal, who had recently returned from injury and was instrumental in stabilising their defence.
“We are raring to go because, just like what the coach had said, it is a very important match and even though the odds are stacked against us, mathematically speaking, we still can go through the next round if we win this match and also the match against Kitchee next week,” reiterated Zulfadli.
While the Warriors may have won their last league match against Hougang United, they conceded there were times when the backline was sloppy and allowed the opponent to score twice in the match.
With only three days to rectify the problems in defence, Selvaraj said he believes that his players understand what is needed of them.
“We did not have much time to really prepare as the fixtures are really close and all I can do is make them realise where they had gone wrong and make use of the training session to build up the belief,” said the former Singapore international.
“I managed to get the strong message to my players that we really need to work on all this.”
The match between Warriors FC and Semen Padang will be played at Jalan Besar stadium on April 24 (Wednesday) at 745pm.