After unconvincing performances and slim wins this season, Terengganu finally hit top gear by demolishing Sabah 6-3 at the Sultan Ismail Stadium on Saturday night.
The handsome win helped the Turtles move a spot above Lions XII, who edged Sarawak 1-0 in Kuching, on goal difference. Both teams are level on 20 points.
Liberian hitman Francis Doe was the toast of Terengganu when he fired a hat-trick in the ninth, 13th and 77th minutes. Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin (fourth), Abdul Manaf Mamat (42nd) and Joseph Kallang Tie (89th) added a goal each for the home team. Sabah replied through Zainizam Marjan (33rd), Brendan Gan (44th) and Mohd Rozaimi Rahman (64th).
Coach Mat Zan Mat Aris said his players have finally gelled together as a team.
“I have only recently assumed the role as coach this season … and of course, the players must adapt to my style of training compared to the previous coach Irfan (Bakti).
“We have new players and they need time to gel but the big win showed what we can accomplish when we are in sync with each other,” he said.
Mat Zan said the performance against Sabah would prove the team’s detractors wrong and confirmed Terengganu’s status as genuine title contenders.
“We managed the big win without our main players such as captain Marzuki Yusof, Ahmad Nordin Alias and Reeshafiq Alwi. We are on a good run and the players are improving game by game,” he said.
However, Mat Zan conceded the team’s attacking display left big spaces for the opponent to exploit, citing Sabah’s three-goal reply.
“We are far from being at our best as our defence must be strong as well.
“We must convert every chance we get and shore up our defence,” he said.
On the performance of Kallang Tie, who rarely starts for the Turtles this season after being one of the key players in the team’s triumph last season, Mat Zan said he was impressed by the Sarawakian winger and he insisted there was always an opportunity for him to be a regular in the first team.
“Jo (Kallang) is a very good player … he just have to prove his capabilities whenever we called upon him to deliver.
“I am not ruling out the possibility that he can regain his starting position in the team,” he said.
Mat Zan added that the big win was the right motivation needed for the upcoming AFC Cup match against Hong Kong side Kitchee in Kuala Terengganu tomorrow.
“We will change our game plan against Kitchee … that is for sure,” he said.