The match that was postponed twice was finally played and in the end, it is PKNP FC who advance to the 2019 Malaysia Cup quarterfinal instead of Petaling Jaya City FC after they secured a comprehensive 3-0 victory at Manjung Municipal Council Stadium on Sunday.
Yashir Pinto (9', 61') and Khairul Asyraf (46') got the vital goals to send PKNP through to the next stage of the competition where Kedah awaits but Abu Bakar Fadzim paid tribute to the two Malaysia U-19 players who are fast proving they have what it takes to go toe to toe with far more experienced players than them.
For the second straight match, Abu Bakar was rewarded for having the bravery to field both Mukhairi Ajmal and Aidil Azuan. Despite the absence of towering striker Giancarlo Rodriguez, PKNP did what was necessary to leapfrog over PJ City into the second place in Group B.
"The players showed great commitment. PJ City are a strong team who have strength in attack but tonight (Sunday) is PKNP's luck. We utilised our chances, played at a great tempo and played as a team. I gave chances to two players who are 18 years old, Ajmal and Aidil who combined well with the seniors.
"What was most obvious was the presence of PKNP's president which provided a great motivation to the players. So this is our appreciation for him with the performance that we put in. Now we have to recover well, see who can play, Giancarlo will be back for the next game," said Abu Bakar after the match.
As for PJ City's K. Devan, the result was not what they were searching for having been in second spot for long periods of the group stages only to be overtaken at the final game. With his team struck down by influenza virus that caused the postponements, PJ City was a pale shadow of their usual self.
Two important squad members in R. Barathkumar and K. Thivandran were both absent due to the illness, which offered Safee Sali and Zamri Ramli opportunities to start but it was the defensive mistakes that Devan claimed to have cost PJ City their progression in the competition.
"I'm very disappointed with the result and the failure to reach the quarterfinal. Even though we only needed a draw, the early goal that we conceded spoiled what we have planned. Our defence had a lot of trouble in the game. It just wasn't PJ City's game.
"In order to find the goals, we had to take risk going forward and every time PKNP came on the counter, they scored. This defeat I don't want to put it down to the recovering players, they have already given their best but it just wasn't enough," said Devan in the post-match press conference.
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