A LITTLE pep-talk by Dollah Salleh to his goalkeeper Wan Azraie Wan Teh was all it needed to ensure Pahang successfully came through the promotion-relegation final shootout against Kedah on Thursday to return to the Super League.
After an encouraging first half when Pahang took a 2-0 lead, Wan Azraie inexplicably lost his nerve in the second period and was partly responsible for Kedah's two goals which both came off set-pieces.
Dollah had a word with Wan Azraie before extra-time kicked off and the goalkeeper turned in an inspired performance, especially in the 3-2 shootout win, when he saved four penalties to cap Pahang's stay in the Premier League to just one season.
"I was surprised by the performance of my players in the second half. Azraie seemed nervous and let in two goals, why he was like that I don't know.
"I spoke to him before extra-time, to all the players, and told them that we had not lost yet but their attitude was as if we had no chance.
"I told them this was the time to prove that we are not a Premier League team. Our goalkeeper did a great job with the penalties and went from zero to hero," said Dollah when met at Wisma FAM in Petaling Jaya yesterday during the M-League prize giving ceremony.
With their place in the Super League next season secured, Dollah turns his attention to the Malaysia Cup which begins on Aug 24.
"Now that this is settled, we can focus on the Malaysia Cup. The planning for next season can wait as I will be looking to see if we can find players to join us on loan.
"We need to strengthen our midfield but so far we have not found anyone," added Dollah, who will be missing winger R. Gopinathan and forward Fauzi Roslan for the opening Malaysia Cup match after being sent off against Kedah.
Midfielder Boris Kochkin also hobbled off at the start of the second half with a hamstring injury but Dollah is confident the Russian will be back in two weeks.