Demotivated players are not the right recipe for any head coach heading into a crucial first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarterfinal and that was the headache that Zainal Abidin Hassan had to face in yesterday's 3-0 loss to Pahang at Hang Jebat Stadium. With away goals rule in play for the competition, it does look as though Melaka already have one foot through the exit door.
Talismanic centre back Shukor Adan was confirmed by Zainal after the match that he refused to play against Pahang because of unpaid salaries and he isn't the only one in the team affected by the problem. Zainal also lament the suicidal period in the second half that allowed Pahang to run away comfortable winners.
"We showed a good performance in the first half but after the mistake with the first goal, we couldn't quickly get our heads together. To lose with three goals conceded in five minutes is very disappointing. We had a few chances but we didn't take any of those. There's still another 90 minutes to play, so we have to continue fighting," said Zainal after the match.
Lazarus Kaimbi headed in the opening goal in the 56th minute before Wan Zaharulnizam thrashed one in from the edge of the box just two minutes later. Striker Dickson Nwakaeme completed an impressive five minute spell for the visitors when he nodded in from close range in the 61st minute.
Pahang's head coach Dollah Salleh was pleased with the turnaround shown by his players after an insipid start to the match. The second leg will be played at Darul Makmur Stadium on September 29 and Dollah will undoubtedly be looking to complete the job from what is a very commanding position that Pahang have put themselves in.
"This is what we wanted, to get a good lead. But that also after we switched in the second half following a first half where we mostly followed Melaka's tempo and that is where we managed to take our opportunities. There's still one more match, things can still happen even though we have a 3-0 lead. We cannot be complacent and too comfortable," said Dollah after the match.
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