K. Rajagopal was left very deflated in the manner in which his PKNS side closed out their 2019 Malaysia Cup campaign and effectively the season.
2019 was supposed to be a season of strengthening and improvement for PKNS FC after a very strong 2018 campaign where they finished third in the Super League, reached the FA Cup semi-final as well as the Malaysia Cup quarterfinals. Reinforcements were brought in to improve the squad but their 2019 season ended abruptly after Tuesday’s defeat to Terengganu FC (TFC).
Having spent up to 12 rounds of matches among the top five in the Super League, K. Rajagopal’s side suffered a slump in the second part of the season and it was a momentum that continued into their Malaysia Cup campaign where they finished bottom of Group A behind Kedah, TFC and Negeri Sembilan.
The former Malaysia national team head coach lamented on missing key individuals during a crucial period of the competition but still felt that his team should have reached the next stage of the Malaysia Cup. Persistent rumours about PKNS being changed to a feeder club to Selangor midway through the season did not help but Rajagopal refused to used that as an excuse.
“I’m surprised especially in the second round. We started the campaign by giving others a challenge. Then there was a decline. Not to give reasons but there were injuries. We lost the matches in the second round very close. We were making a lot of mistakes especially in defending.
“We didn’t have the stability. If you can keep your defence the same, losing one is one. But sometimes the changes can impact the team. I told the players we were losing focus, the energy and intensity that we need. I told the players that we can come back in the Malaysia Cup campaign but things stayed the same.
“Tonight (Tuesday) there were some improvements even though I didn’t go with my best line-up. There were minimum improvement but the early goals against a team like Terengganu isn’t easy. It was a disappointing campaign. The first round was positive and I thought this team can finish in the top six but the second half of the season was disappointing.
“I don’t know if the players were impacted by the rumours going around. I’ve not been spoken to about what’s going to happen and I cannot speak for the players whether they are affected by it,” said Rajagopal in the post-match press conference.
On an individual level, Kpah Sherman has had a productive season despite the slump shown by the team. Top scorer in the Super League, the Liberian enhanced his reputation with his natural eye for goal. Rodney Akwensivie showed promise that led to his national team call-up but struggled with consistency.
Otherwise the rest of squad just did not produce what was expected of them. The return of Gabriel Guerra proved to be a less fruitful output than what he produced in his first foray with The Red Ants. The likes of Mahali Jasuli, Romel Morales, Qayyum Marjoni and Nik Shahrul Azim also flattered to deceive.
A poor season from the team this season when they should be proving to the management that they as a team are worth saving for the next season. It looks increasingly likely now they will be waiting for the step with bated breath.
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