After the experienced head coach parted ways with Selangor yesterday evening, Goal looks back at the highlights of his tenure at Selangor
|Although the 62 year-old coach has failed to bring a silverware back to Shah Alam, his almost 2-year stint with the Red Giants has been somewhat successful, especially on the continental front.|
|APPOINTMENT AS SELANGOR HEAD COACH (OCTOBER 2011)|
|After K. Devan stepped down from his post at the end of the 2011 season, the Football Association of Selangor (FAS) quickly moved to secure Irfan's service for the following season from Terengganu. He previously helped Terengganu qualify for the 2012 AFC Cup and capture the 2011 FA Cup.|
|2013 AFC CUP QUALIFICATION (JULY 2012)|
|Irfan's inaugural season with Selangor was a quite one by Selangor's standards, and they only went as far as the second round of the FA Cup, and the semi final of the Malaysia Cup. They also finished third in the MSL, however that was enough to take them to the continental championship, as the league champions Kelantan have already qualified as the FA Cup champions, and runners up LionsXII were ineligible due to their status as an invitational foreign club. The last time Selangor qualified for the competition was in 2010.|
|BEAT RIVALS JOHOR DARUL TAKZIM 4-1 (MARCH 2013)|
|After Johor F.C. was rebranded as Johor Darul Takzim F.C for the 2013 season along with their massive funding, they emerged as the team to beat in the Malaysian Super League and Selangor met them for the first time in an eagerly-awaited league match at Shah Alam. Contrary to most predictions, Selangor led 2-0 in the first half.
However, tragedy struck when their centreback Peter Chrappan was sent off at the beginning of the second half, and murmurs of doubt were heard in the stadium. But instead of taking off a forward to replace the gap left in the defence, Irfan stuck to playing with three defenders. Even more audaciously, he let wing back Mahali Jasuli venture forward to attack, effectively leaving only two defenders at the back. His belief was rewarded when the Red Giants scored two more goals, one by Mahali. The match ended 4-1 to Selangor, and although it was not a title decider or a cup match, it was hailed as one of the best matches of the 2013 season. Irfan's Selangor and the Southern Tigers would encounter each other three more times this season.
|2013 AFC CUP SECOND ROUND QUALIFICATION (APRIL 2013)
|In the month of April 2013, Selangor underwent their greatest challenge of the season. In the space of only one month, they had to go through 10 matches in three competitions, the AFC Cup, the MSL and the FA Cup. The heavy schedule soon took a toll on the squad fitness and a number of players soon found themselves on the crock list. They had earlier gone through the first round of the AFC Cup group stage with only one point in hand and an early exit was looming.
Irfan however smartly put his focus on the Asian competition, and Selangor recovered to collect seven points in the remaining three matches to qualify to the second round stage, a feat that included a last minute goal to draw 2-2 at home against East Bengal, and a 3-2 away win in their final group match, against Singapore's Tampines Rovers.
However, with the squad stretched too thin, this meant that something had to give, and in the same month they were knocked out of the FA Cup by JDT, and dropped points in the league, taking them further from the league title. On top of that, they were also eventually knocked out of the competition in the second round stage by Maldives' New Radiant. It seemed that in his eagerness for short-lived continental glory, Irfan had inadvertently surrendered the domestic front, to also lose a shot at the following season's AFC Cup.
|2014 AFC CUP QUALIFICATION (JUNE 2013)
|Afterwards, Selangor plodded on in the league in a rather apathetic manner, their AFC Cup and FA Cup exits having seemingly taken the wind out of their sail. They have lost only two matches, but they haven't won an awful lot either, with most of their matches ending in disappointing draws. They were fourth when the league took a lengthy break for the final stages of the FA Cup and at the end of May.
However when the league resumed for the last stretch of the competition, it was Selangor who sprinted the fastest and it was their rivals; second and third ATM and JDT's turn to sputter. Irfan led his team to three league wins in as many matches, to shoot to second before their final league match of the season. League champions LionsXII were again ineligible, so the 2014 AFC Cup spot would be won by the league runners up instead.
Selangor were to play who else but third-placed JDT in their final match, needing only a draw as they had the superior goal count. But it was an away match at the feverish Larkin Stadium, with the Southern Tigers desperate for something to show to their president; the Crown Prince of Johor after losing to Kelantan in the FA Cup final.
In the match, Selangor, in their usual fashion trailed 1-0 at the end of the first half. But they did better in the second half to equalise through a Forkey Doe freekick. Unlike the last time they met, in the FA Cup quarter final, when Selangor led 3-1 only to lose the lead before crashing out on penalties, this time the Red Giants steadied their nerves to finish the game 1-1, and to consecutively qualify to next year's AFC Cup.
At that moment, it seemed as if Selangor could possibly just be ready for further greatness, under Haji Irfan Bakti.