It was against Laos back in the group stage of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup that fans saw Syafiq Ahmad being deployed as part of the midfield trio for Malaysia as Tan Cheng Hoe went with a bold selection for a crucial tie. Fast forward five months later and it's the turn of Johor Darul Ta'zim to employ the same tactic with the 23-year-old.
Nominally a striker or a forward, Syafiq started for JDT against PJ City FC behind Diogo Luis Santo and in front of the more defensive minded duo of Hariss Harun and Afiq Fazail. It was a plan which was justified given that JDT won 1-0 courtesy of a fantasy move which Syafiq started and ended.
The former Malaysia Under-23 player is not fazed by the possibility of adapting to a new role with his club side on the longer term. With games coming up thick and fast, Syafiq is confident that if he puts in his hard yards in training, he will get his chance.
"Before this I've also played in the middle, so it wasn't that hard for me to adapt to playing in the middle. So it's up to me to perform well in that role. Here at JDT, we have squad rotation so when I get a chance like this, it does give me a boost. The league is still a long way to go so there's still plenty for me to prove and improve.
"We know that the whole team felt really tired. After we landed from China, we only had two days to prepare for PJ City and after that we had to travel from Johor to Kuala Lumpur. Yes, it can disturb a little but we cannot use that as an excuse not to play well," said Syafiq after the match.
Like Syafiq, another player who is getting a run in the team now is Aidil Zafuan. Used right from the start in the second match running, Aidil showed that he still have a part to play for the team despite his age with a solid performance to shut out a storming PJ City performance particularly in the second half.
Both these changes were done because JDT had just came back from an exhausting trip to China where they played Shandong Luneng in the AFC Champions League. The coming two weeks sees JDT playing every three days what with commitments in the FA Cup and the ACL.
And if JDT continue to progress in both cup competitions, the likes of Syafiq and Aidil know that they still have a big part to play in the season for their club.
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