KOTA KINABALU: Zainizam Marjan is on top of the world.
The former international is playing the best game of his life in the ongoing Malaysia Cup competition.
The younger brother of fallen hero Matlan, twice displayed man of the match qualities in the last two games for his beloved team Sabah, that caught the eyes of his coach cum manager Gary Phillips.
Phillips showered praise on his goal poacher and provider, whom he described as magnificent!
He even went on to suggest that Zainizam deserves a recall into the national squad.
“Zainizam was once again magnificent. You know, I hope K. Rajagopal (national coach) is looking at him because I think he is certainly worth looking at … based on his form at the moment.
This has been Zainizam’s best night. In their last game against Terengganu, he set up Mohd Farid Ideris who scored the opener before netting the second.
Unfortunately, Sabah squandered their two goal advantage to eventually share the spoils as Terengganu scored twice late into the game.
But despite failing to find the net against Pahang, Zainizam, 30, proved to be the livewire as ran tirelessly throughout the game.
Coach Gary was also impressed with Zainizam’s striking partner Leopold Alfonso Otong. Leopold made his first Malaysia Cup start this season, and he did not disappoint his coach, by contributing a goal in the 2-0 victory.
Otong scored the opener before second half substitute Alto Linus netted the second.
“He played fairly well and you can see him giving it all. I think he’s still improving,” said Gary, who surprisingly penned in the teenager in the starting line-up ahead of the team’s leading scorer Mohd Farid Ideris.
Asked on why he decided to bench Farid, Gary said: “He is not in the best of shape. Even tonight (Monday) he seemed to have no interest in the game. This is a team that based on teamwork. We also need hard working players.”
“In the last game, he (Farid) was already not really impressive, but he scored and that was the reason why he stayed a little bit longer in the team.
“But when you don’t score, and you don’t contribute to the team, so the other players, who are willing to run and fight for the team need to take over.
“In any teams, even teams like Manchester United or Chelsea, they want hard working players who run and fight for the ball, because if you do that your chances of winning will always be higher than your opponent.
“So I hope this is a wakeup call for Farid because there is no reason why I will not start Leopold again in our next match as he was doing fine.
Commenting on the team’s overall performances, Gary said: “We got a good home record, and we are proud of that and we did a great job tonight (Monday) and that is important.”
“I’m also glad to see that we did dominate in certain part of the game and took our chances well.
“I have to praise them all because they have worked extremely hard. Even the reserves that came in did not disappoint me unlike in our last game (against Terengganu).
“Look at Razlan (Oto), he showed that he was trying so as Alto.
“I’m happy with what we have done tonight but I still believe that we can play a lot better than this,” said the delighted Gary, who is quietly confident of his side making it into the knockout stage of the tournament.
“In this competition, every game will be massive. I have been saying this week in week out, but this is a fact that we can run from. Our next game will be another big game … it is also an important game. So now we must focus on it.
“But I’m giving them a two-day break before we resume our training,” said Gary.
Meanwhile, Pahang coach Dollah Salleh said that his side played well but just failed to capitalise on the chances they had.
“We squandered numerous opportunities and conceded two goals from our mistakes. Nevertheless, overall I still think we played well and are satisfied with our performances and congratulation to the Sabah team.