BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Following a turbulent week that saw Kelantan head coach Fajr Ibrahim resign only to change his mind a day later, the relegation-threatened East Coast side returned to winning ways after six consecutive competitive matches without a win, edging Kuala Lumpur (KL) 4-2 in their Malaysia Super League match on Saturday.
More encouragingly, the Red Warriors won the encounter at home fielding five players aged 21 or younger, and only one foreign player at the start of the match, defender Cássio de Jesus out of the four they currently have on their roster.
Kelantan skipper of the night Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim took the time to praise the performance of the club's younger players in the match, in the post-match interview with the match broadcaster.
"Everyone played well tonight, but the win happened because our young players took the chances they had, praise Allah.
"I've been at Kelantan for a long while, and I've also been helping them with my experience. They can go far, as long as they maintain the commitment they showed tonight," said the defender.
Shahrul also expressed his belief that the Red Warriors, now made up mostly of young players after having axed a number of the more senior players, will do better as the team chemistry improves.
"This is a 'new' team and our chemistry is just improving. We had not done well because the chemistry wasn't there.
"But now we're adapting to each other's movement, and we will do better," he remarked.
In the match that was held at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium, the hosts were two up within the first 20 minutes, thanks to goals by Nik Azli Nik Alias (10') and Shafiq Shaharudin (16'). Shafiq doubled his tally in the 69th minute, but the visitors pulled one back through veteran attacker Indra Putra Mahayuddin's 80th minute goal. Malaysia U-19 playmaker Nik Akif Syahiran Nik Mat scored Kelantan's final goal of the night in the 89th minute, before Zhafri Yahya netted the Hawks' second in injury time.