BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The third-choice goalkeeper role is sometimes considered to be the most undesirable position at any team. They very rarely get the chance to showcase their capabilities in a competitive setting, and when they do get picked to turn out for their team, anything less than a Herculean feat would be deemed insufficient to convince the coaching staff and fans.
But Selangor's young custodian Haziq Ridwan has proven himself more than up to the task in the past week or so. After first and second picks Norazlan Razali and Khairul Azhan Khalid's form dropped, resulting in a string of unimpressive results for the club, the 22-year old was handed his competitive debut in their Super League match away to Melaka United on July 21. The Red Giants had a good game that night, but defensive naivety and Haziq's failure to settle in resulted in them conceding a last-minute Melaka winner, and they lost 3-2 to the hosts.
But head coach Nazliazmi retained his faith in the goalkeeper against PKNP FC five days later, and this time Haziq repaid the faith shown in him, making a number of crucial saves to help the side record a 2-0 win over the plucky minnows.
He again kept his place in the starting line-up in their next match, at home to Terengganu FC on Sunday in the final round of the 2018 Super League. In the encounter, Haziq kept his side from going behind to the favourites, denying Turtles' forward Tchetche Kipre's multiple attempts at his goal.
Finally in the 72nd minute Syahmi Safari opened the scoring, and Rufino Segovia added the hosts' second goal in the 90th minute. Thanks to the goalkeeper's man-of-the-match performance, the Red Giants finished their league campaign on a high, just in time for the start of the Malaysia Cup this coming weekend.
Goals scored in the Selangor-Terengganu match
He has now bagged two clean sheets in only three competitive appearances this season, a promising piece of statistics for the debutante. In comparison, Norazlan have kept two clean sheets in nine appearances, while Azhan have three in 19.
Speaking to Goal after the match, the custodian remarked that he is ready to climb up the goalkeeping pecking order in the squad.
"(After the three matches) I am now more motivated and ready for the cup. I want to repay the trust shown in me.
"I am ready to be called on anytime I am needed."
With Nazliazmi opting for a younger line-up in their last few matches, Haziq now needs to be given the chance to complement their starting line-up, and the Malaysia Cup is a brilliant avenue for the 33-time champions to prepare their younger players to take over starting roles in the following season.
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