Fandi lauds Nunez after FA Cup heroics

Darul Takzim coach Fandi Ahmad was delighted to see his new signing Leonel Nunez make an instant impact with two goals in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Selangor.

Selangor vs Darul Takzim
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Heading into the Malaysia FA Cup quarter-final second leg at the Shah Alam Stadium trailing 2-1 on aggregate, Harimau Selatan found themselves further behind after Mahalli Jasuli opened the scoring for Selangor in the 28th minute.

However, Nunez, who was brought on for Nurul Azwan Roya shortly after the half-hour mark, equalised in the 66th minute when he sent a right-footed strike arrowing into the far corner, before drilling home a 20-yard effort on his left foot in the 87th minute to send the game into extra-time.

With neither side able to find another goal in the 30 added minutes the game then went to the penalty shootout, which Darul Takzim eventually won 4-2 to advance to the last four.

Speaking after the game, Fandi was understandably delighted with Nunez's brilliant debut and revealed the decision to start him on the bench and paid dividends.

"It was all part of the plan," he said. "Starting with a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation, we needed people up front to support Mat-Yo [Norshahrul Idlan Talaha].

"But we had already told Roya and told Nunez that he would be coming on within 30 minutes because we needed him. We know he's got that firepower.

"Nobody else knows that but we knew. Even though he's overweight, we just need him to be around the box because his finishing is first class.

"When Nunez came on in the first half, he wasn't really settled but in the second half, we encouraged the players to give him the ball. I told him to take it on his own because I know he has that firepower - his left foot and right foot are both solid.

"We need to push him a bit more because the [Super] League is on as well and it's going to be very tough - having to play a game every two to three days. So hopefully we can trim him down a bit for him to be fitter."

Nonetheless, while Nunez will undoubtedly hog the headlines after his two-goal heroics, Fandi also singled out a few other players for praise, although he insisted it was a team effort that ultimately saw them progress to the semi-finals, where they will now meet fellow Super League outfit Pahang.

"He [goalkeeper Al-Hafiz Hamzah] has not been playing lately but we are happy with his contribution," the ex-Singapore international explained. "He actually saved us in extra-time.

"I believe in Al-Hafiz and I'm glad he's made a good comeback in the last two games.

"I also thought Safee [Sali] gave us a lot of run and weight up front in challenging for balls and Mat-Yo did a lot of running. Other than that, I thought everybody gave 200% and we decided our own destiny today [Tuesday].

"I thought we did well considering the circumstances. We were very tired and just came back from [last Friday's 1-0 league win in] Terengganu, so I must say well done to my boys and well done to Johor.

"This is the beginning and we hope Johor will rise."

Fandi also revealed the decision not to play midfield playmaker Safiq Rahim was a tactical one, meaning the Malaysia captain should be fit for Friday's league game against Pahang.

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