MUAMER Salibasic underlined his value to Sarawak when he notched his second hat-trick in three matches to power his team into the Malaysia Cup semi-finals in Kuching on Saturday.
The Premier League champions' 3-1 win over Sime Darby in the quarter-finals second leg, which saw Sarawak advance by the same aggregate score, set up a meeting with Pahang on Oct 19 and 26.
Salibasic took his tally in the competition to seven goals with his hat-trick on Saturday and joins Pahang's Matias Conti, Marlon Alex James of Armed Forces and Patrick Wleh of PKNS as the Malaysia Cup top scorers.
The Bosnian could not have been happier to fire Sarawak into the semi-finals for the first time since 2000.
"I feel so happy, I don't know what to say," said Salibasic after the match at the State Stadium. "I have no words to speak. Hopefully we can win the semi-finals also. I want to play in the final."
Sarawak had to come back from conceding a fourth-minute goal by Asrol Ibrahim but the predatory instincts of Salibasic, who scored his first Malaysia Cup hat-trick in a 6-1 Group D win against Perak in Kuching, ensured Sarawak made it through as he capped his treble with a brilliant first-time volley which should be a candidate for goal of the season.
"If he scores three goals then obviously he's a star," an admiring Sarawak coach Robert Alberts told Astro Arena. "It's not easy to score another hat-trick after the last one.
"We let in a soft goal, playing school football when they opened us up. At 1-0 behind at home, the advantage was with Sime Darby.
"I thought it was good the way we fought back and after that Sime Darby only had a couple of shots from distance."
Premier League runners-up Sime Darby were forced to field an local line up due to injuries to striker Karlo Primorac and midfielder Togaba Kontiwa which Alberts said made quite a difference.
"The difference was unfortunately Sime Darby could not play their two foreign players and we had our two foreigners," the Dutchman told RTM. "That was the difference and it paid off for us."
Though the visitors scored first, the under-strength Sime Darby, who along with Sarawak will be playing in next year's Super League, could not hold on to their early lead and coach Ismail Zakaria was not too happy with the officiating either.
"I am proud of the way my players played," Ismail, who fielded Yusoff Zainal Abidin in Primorac's absence to little effect, told RTM. "We failed to capitalise on our chances but there were several things I was not satisfied with.
"I thought the referee's performance was below par and disappointed me. That contributed to our defeat but overall, I think we gave our best.
"Without the imports, it was difficult and we missed three or four chances but there were other factors which disappointed us." By Devinder Singh