By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Following their all-conquering displays of 2012, where they won the domestic treble of the Super League, Malaysia Cup and FA Cup, Kelantan have struggled to live up to expectations this season and are currently fifth on the league table, ten points behind leaders LIONSXII with just two games remaining.
However, they ensured they would not end the year empty-handed after claiming the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Darul Takzim at the weekend, courtesy of Norfarhan Muhammad's clinical 16th-minute strike.
Speaking after the game, Hodak hailed the importance of the result not only because it represented silverware, but also for the effect it could have in the remainder of the league, as well as their upcoming Malaysia Cup campaign.
"[Saturday's] victory is very important," he said.
"Not only is it Kelantan's first trophy this season, but it will also lift the team's spirit and confidence to play in our remaining games.
"Congratulations to the players, who showed great fighting spirit. In the end, we managed to a trophy and I hope we can continue this performance in our next game."
Many that had turned up at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium for Saturday's enticing encounter were left stunned as the match, expected to be a close contest, was dominated from start to finish by the Red Warriors, who were only denied a bigger victory due to some poor finishing.
Their opponents hardly had an effort on goal of note and Hodak admits every one of his players had done what was asked of them on the night.
"Everyone played well and created many chances," the Croat added. "I'm very happy and proud of them.
"Darul Takzim had a few chances but our defence did a very good job to deny them chances. Obinna [Nwaneri] especially did very well."
Darul Takzim assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim admitted that the first-half withdrawals of Safee Sali, Andrezinho and Safiq Rahim ultimately cost his side, but was quick to congratulate their conquerors.
"We admit that losing Safee, Andre and Safiq has affected our game," he said. "I don't know what to say; we all are very disappointed.
"But this is football. Congratulations to Kelantan for the win."
The assistant to Fandi Ahmad, who opted out to sit out the post-match press conference, also claimed a mixture of luck and experience was the difference between the two sides.
"Maybe experience gave Kelantan the edge," Ismail added. "Kelantan played very well.
"They kept the ball for most of the time and that's how they differed from us. I hope this loss is a good lesson and experience for the players, especially the younger ones ahead of our [upcoming] league games.
"We played better towards the end of the match compared to the first half. We put a lot of pressure on Kelantan and have a few chances but, unfortunately, we couldn't score."
Darul Takzim are still in the running to win the Super League although the title race could be over on Tuesday if LIONSXII beat FELDA United at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Image courtesy of Radi Mohamad (MyCornerflag.com)