BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor head coach Nazliazmi Nasir has defended his decision to field a side composed largely of his younger players, in their 3-2 round 21 Malaysia Super League defeat to Melaka United on Saturday.
With the Red Giants separated from the relegation zone by six points, Nazliazmi fielded six players aged 22 and below at the start of the match that was held at the Hang Jebat Stadium. Defender Syukri Azman and third goalkeeper Haziq Ridwan were handed their Selangor debuts and first ever Selangor starts.
The decision initially seemed to pay off when 21-year old substitute Kugan Dhevarajan helped the visitors lead the match 2-1 with his 70th-minute goal, his very first touch in the match. However, their defensive porousness and naivety led them to concede two goals in the final 10 minutes of the match, when a draw would have been enough to confirm their top-tier safety for next season.
The Red Giants now have to secure the solitary point the hard way; in either one of their two remaining league matches; away to PKNP FC next Thursday, or Terengganu FC at home on Sunday.
But when interviewed by the match broadcaster's co-commentator Robert Cornthwaite after the game, Nazliazmi defended his faith in their former youth players.
"This is part of football. Our young boys played well in the first half, and I decided to change a few things due to injuries. The injury-time winner dashed our hopes to secure at least one point.
"The young boys are the future of Selangor. As the coach I'm very proud of they way they played and the way they combined on the pitch. There's a long way to go; two more games, we need to try our best.
"We now have to collect as many points as possible in order to defend our position in the standings against Negeri Sembilan and Kelantan (the two clubs in the relegation zone). Hopefully my young boys can do it against PKNP and Terengganu," explained the former youth coach to the former Selangor centre back.
Although the Red Giants have not won any of their last seven league matches, their top-tier safety is however not as precarious as their current form may suggest. Even if Selangor lose both of their final matches, Negeri and Kelantan need to perform the tough feat of winning both of theirs, just to go level on 21 points with the Red Giants.
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