BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
With around 10 minutes remaining on the clock in the matchday 14 Super League encounter between Petaling Jaya City (PJ) and Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Phoenix head coach Devan Kuppusamy brought on former veteran striker Safee Sali for a midfielder.
The gamble paid off just as the match, tied at 0-0 at the time, rolled into stoppage time. A wayward clearance by City Boys defender Hisyamudin Sha'ari looped towards his team's penalty box instead, and Safee managed to squeeze between onrushing defender Ryutaro Karube and goalkeeper Faridzuean Kamaruddin, before lobbing the ball over the custodian and into the goal for a late yet timely winner.
90'| GOL SAFEE SALI!
Sentuhan 'lob' penyerang PJ City, Safee Sali memecahkan kebuntuan di Stadium KLFA malam ini. The Pheonix mendahului!
PJ City FC 1-0 @kualalumpurfa #LigaSuper2019#MFLLive#PJCKL pic.twitter.com/E5iOksH8Co
— MFL LIVE (@MFL_Live) May 17, 2019
The win, PJ City's third league win in a row, has allowed Devan's charges to move up to seventh place, at least for the following 24 hours.
Speaking to the press after the match, Devan spoke of his decision to go for broke, instead of securing the safety of a draw.
"After our previous game, against Terengganu, in which we conceded three goals in the first half, I told my players that we needed to be more careful. And as a result, the game was a little too slow in the first half. At the break I told them to pick up the pace and the tempo instead, as we needed them if we wanted to score goals.
"It did look like it was heading for a draw, but I took the risk of subbing off a midfielder for Safee, to get three forwards in front and press the opponents.
"That decision turned out to be a fortunate one with him scoring [the winner]. He's good in 1-v-1 situations, and he utilised that well to make sure we come away with the three points," explained the former Super League and FA Cup-winning coach.
But when asked whether the win, his side's third straight victory, has allowed him to start thinking of a top-half finish in the standings, the ex-Negeri Sembilan and Selangor boss remained pragmatic.
"Most importantly, I want to get us out of the bottom half first and today's win should allow us to improve on our position. But it's still not enough to allow us to start thinking of breaking into the top five.
"[However] I believe that one or two more wins will allow us to climb up the table and avoid a relegation battle," noted Devan.
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