KUALA LUMPUR: At the start of the season, neither Gary Steven Robbat nor Junior Eldstal could have thought they would have a fairytale ending by lifting the Malaysia Cup trophy.
Sidelined by injuries, the duo not only had to work their way back to fitness and but also fight for a spot in a Johor Darul Ta’zim side brimming with talent.
Both Gary and Eldstal, however, earned the confidence of coach Ulisses Morais and featured prominently in the club’s Malaysia Cup campaign which culminated with a 2-0 win over Kedah in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium yesterday.
For midfielder Gary, the win over his home state was the perfect response to critics who had written him off after spending six months recuperating from a knee injury.
“I was injured for the first six months of the season and when I recovered I tried to make my way into the team,” said Gary, who only made his 2017 debut on Sept 9 in a 3-1 win over Selangor in a Malaysia Cup match.
“The coach trusted me and let me play a few games. Some games I came on in the second half so I have to thank the coach for giving me a chance.”
Gary, 25, was given the nod to start the Malaysia Cup final ahead of Afiq Fazail in central midfield and largely kept Kedah’s Sandro Mendonca and Liridon Krasniqi in check until having to go off in the 60th minute.
“I was disappointed to get an injury when I felt my hamstring pull and had to go off. I tried to carry on but couldn’t.
“I’m very happy because it’s the first time in my life to win the Malaysia Cup. The coach told me before the game that I was going to start. I started in the league game (against Kedah a week earlier) and he said I will start again in the final, so I was not surprised.”
Eldstal, 26, also missed the start of the season due to a slipped disc but has since ably filled in for injured Marcos Antonio Santos in defence.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to end the season with this,” said Eldstal, who replaced Aidil Zafuan Radzak in the second half. “I had a conversation with TMJ (club owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) about the Malaysia Cup and trying to come back and fill in when Marcos got injured, so it’s a nice feeling.”
Eldstal’s displays earned him a recall to the national team after more than a year, which has placed him in a dilemma as his father is getting married on Nov 9, a day before Malaysia face North Korea in Buriram in an Asian Cup qualifier.
“I don’t know what is going to happen yet. Of course, I’m looking forward to playing but we will see,” said Eldstal, whose last appearance for Malaysia was during the Oceania tour in June last year.