BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
B. Sathianathan was in jovial mood in the post-match press conference after his Felda United side defeated Ceres-Negros FC 3-0 in the fourth match of the 2017 AFC Cup. Playing at Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday evening, Felda controlled the match from start to finish to earn a well-deserved three points that puts them level on points with Ceres.
Syahid Zaidon, Hadin Azman and Fazrul Hazli all scored for Felda with the latter two finding the back of the net in the second half. Sathianathan reveled in the win but pointed out that his team was still not at their 100% yet.
"Three nil looks like a big score but we didn't play at our best. But the boys kept going and they organised themselves well. After the one goal lead, they relaxed a bit. There's still a lack of discipline. But the boys have been responding well in training and things look positive," said Sathianathan.
With two remaining matches against Tampines Rovers and Ha Noi FC, Felda sits in second place in Group G - just three points behind leaders Ha Noi. Sathianathan is adamant that the target is to qualify for the next stage of the competition and improvements on and off the pitch are a welcomed after-effect.
"Our main aim is to try to get into the next round. The boys have grown in confidence and I'm confidence that they can do it. They want to do it and so do I," added Sathianathan.
In the match against Ceres, Syahid was awarded the official man of the match but his compatriot Norshahrul Idlan Talaha also produced a performance worthy of a mention. The national forward constantly comes under criticism for his inconsistency, even though no one ever doubts his immense talent.
Played on the left hand side of the front trio, Norshahrul showed good touches and his willingness to take on defenders became the outlet that Felda needed upon retrieving the ball from the opposition. Having seen his national striker partner, Safee Sali return to form in recent months - Norshahrul is hopeful to make the same impact as well.
He's 30 years of age now having gone through stints with Kelantan, Johor Darul Ta'zim, ATM and Terengganu before landing in Felda. If Norshahrul keeps working hard, there's no reason why he wouldn't earn a recall to the new national team. Sathianathan obviously know him well and what he's capable of - the head coach believes his experienced charge can only get better.
"Before I came, he applied leave to go for his "umrah". He was away for 10 days. I could not stop him because the previous management made the decision. Just got him back just four or five days training."
"The way he played today, I'm very happy with his performance. But I've known him for a long time and I know he can still be better. He's not old, he's in the right age to still get better," explained Sathianathan.
Felda will turn their attention back to domestic matters with a home Super League tie against Penang at the weekend.