Malik repays the faith

Given a chance to start against the Victory last Friday, Osama Malik grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Given a chance to start against the Victory last Friday, Osama Malik grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Prior to Friday night, Malik had come off the bench in the four preceding games to the clash with Melbourne Victory. But after impressing in those cameos and on the training track, Coach John Kosmina opted to inject Malik into the starting eleven. To make his promotion even more significant, he was selected to play in the integral holding midfield role in a pressure cooker game against the Victory in front of a parochial Melbourne crowd.

But instead of being fazed by the occasion, the 21 year old made the most of it, providing a calming influence for the Reds on the field and an important link between defence and attack.

His contribution was certainly not lost on Kosmina, who went as far as declaring he thought Malik was the best player on the pitch.

Since coming back to home town after a stint in Townsville with the now defunct North Queensland Fury, it has taken Malik time to establish himself in United-s squad. Now, having waited for his chance, Malik made the most of it and was glad he could do his bit for the team.

“I haven-t been here for long and have been waiting for my opportunity, and luckily Kossie showed a lot of faith in me to play me in such a big game, so I-m just hoping I repaid the faith he showed in me,” Malik said.

Malik-s 90 minute performance against Melbourne is indicative of the growing confidence and character among the Reds- squad over the past month. Despite going behind in their last two games, the Reds, like Malik, have persisted and been rewarded. Malik admits there ha definitely been a shift in mentality among the playing group, which has seen the Reds go unbeaten now in five games.

“We struggled at the start of the season. If we went one down pretty early in the game we might have struggled and not come back, but the last two games we-ve done well to show some fight and come back from one-nil deficits so that-s encouraging,” Malik said.

He may have reaped praise from his coach, but Malik is not going to rest on his laurels, knowing a place in the Reds- starting line up can vanish just as quickly as it appeared. Now that he has shown what he can do, the test for Malik will be whether he can back it up in another huge match against league pacesetters, the Central Coast Mariners, in Gosford on Saturday.

“They (the Mariners) have been the best team this season and for good reason, they-re a quality side and we-re going to have to be at the top of our game this week to get a result,” Malik said.