BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Newcomers Petaling Jaya City (PJ) proved that they are no cannon fodders, following their 1-1 draw at home against favourites Selangor on Saturday.
In the matchday two Malaysia Super League (MSL) encounter that was held at the MBPJ Stadium, the hosts opened the scoring in the 80th minute through Pedro Enrique's penalty, after goalkeeper Khairulazhan Khalid fouled him in the box. But the Red Giants were spared the blushes, when they were awarded a penalty themselves in the 87th minute for a foul on Syahmi Safari, which was then converted by Rufino Segovia.
In the post-match press conference, PJ boss Devan Kuppusamy praised his charges, who according to him were able to go toe-to-toe against the more-fancied visitors.
"My team played a better game today than Selangor did. We had the major share of possession, created chances and defended well. We gave them little space in the first half, and could have even won if not for the mistake committed by our left back (Zamri Ramli) that gave away the penalty.
"This shows that my charges have the quality to play in the top tier, despite the fact that Veenod [Subramaniam] was the only player in our starting eleven who has had experience playing in the MSL before this season, and that includes our foreign players.
(This is incorrect, as wing back Aizulridzwan Razali played in the top tier for Negeri Sembilan last season)
"If we can play like this consistently, I'm convinced that PJ can go far," explained the former MSL and FA Cup-winning coach.
And when asked by Goal about his plans heading into the encounter, he revealed that he had believed they could come away with a win.
"I'd watched the Selangor vs Felda United match last week, and came away believing that if they were to play the same way against us tonight, we could have won.
"But tonight Selangor were more organised and defended better," he disclosed.
Devan also expressed his belief that his charges have what it takes to defy expectations in their league campaign.
"If you ask me, I want a top-five finish and my men can achieve this. We have to make improvements of course.
"Take our match away to Melaka United last week. We committed errors that led to us conceding two early goals, but in the second half we controlled the game and were able to pull one back.
"My men need to develop their confidence in order to play better," he said.
Commenting on the fact that it was their first home match after the club's rebranding initiative, Devan cheekily noted that he wants to help them persuade the Selangor fans into changing allegiance.
The club played as MISC-MIFA in previous years, but were rebranded by their new ownserhsip group after gaining promotion for this season, hoping to garner the support of the residents of Petaling Jaya, where their home ground is. The city is situated just 17 kilometres away from Shah Alam, where Selangor play their home games.
"I've read many supportive comments on our social media and website, and I've also come across a few remarks made by Selangor fans who were disgruntled by the way their team has been playing, saying something along the lines of 'Let's support PJ instead!'
"For me, as long as a team plays attractive football and shows high levels of intensity, energy and individual commitment in every match, the supporters will turn up," remarked the former Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Kelantan trainer.
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