The Melaka squad for the 2019 season looks very different from the season before with a plethora of players brought in and those cut from the team. Zainal Abidin Hassan was given the task of taking over a very good but difficult job with established players joining the team.
But it is not until the second half of the season that Zainal has managed to find some consistency with the squad. Liridon Krasniqi and Casagrande were moved on with Dominik Balic and Davy Angan brought in as replacements, helping Zainal to finally find a balanced starting eleven.
Against Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, Melaka created numerous goal-scoring chances but only managing to the one through Patrick Reichelt's strike after some good work from Angan on the right hand side to seal all three points. Zainal was pleased with the win and challenged his players to keep the momentum in the remaining five matches.
"We can see the team is gelling really well after the mid-season window with the two new players who have helped to change and improve the team forward. The win against KL gives the players a boost after the disappointment of dropping two points in the previous game. It is good to see the players learning from their previous mistakes.
"Lately we've created a lot of chances and you can see from the past three matches that we've score plenty too. The player need to learn that when we're on top and creating lots of chances, we have to put them away. We cannot afford to give the opponents a second wind. If we had scored the second, the end of this match would have been more comfortable.
"We do not want to go back down. We are now in the top four and we want to stay there. If we finished fourth, it'll be great. If we finished higher than we can call that a very good success," said Zainal in the post-match press conference.
The introduction of Balic into the team has given the Melaka midfield a much better look than it had when Krasniqi and Safiq Rahim were previously started together. Balic is the now designated to sit deeper allowing Safiq to do what he does best, which is to dictate the attacking side of Melaka's game.
Evergreen Shukor Adan is also the calming influence at the back alongside Jang Suk-won but the star of the show thus far is undoubtedly Reichelt. The Filipino-German scored his ninth goal of the league season with that strike at KLFA Stadium and has shown a real knack of being in the right place at the right time.
A home game against title chasing Johor Darul Ta'zim on June 26 is next on the cards for Melaka, a chance for Zainal and his team to see if their recent improvements can make a dent on the reigning Super League champions.
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