Written by: Shawn Lim
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is refusing to give up hope despite watching his side suffer a 4-1 defeat to Pahang FA in their Malaysia Cup quarter-final first-leg tie at Darul Makmur Stadium on Tuesday night.
Hafiz Kamal, Matias Conti, Dickson Nwakaeme and substitute R.Gopinathan scored for the defending champions before Safuwan Baharudin grabbed a consolation goal for the visitors in second-half stoppage time.
Fandi is positive that his charges are capable of overturning the three-goal deficit when the two sides meet again in the second-leg at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday as he believes that anything can happen in football.
“We are not worried because they will be under pressure. For us it’s a do or die mission. Football, anything can happen,” asserted Fandi.
“It is a possible thing to come back with three goals. At least we got a goal. You can see that they (Pahang) are swearing at themselves after the game because of the goal from Safuwan.
“We have beaten them 4-1, 4-1, so nothing is impossible. I am going back with a happy mind because we get that one goal.
“It is good that the second leg is on a Saturday because everybody will come and cheering for us. We need the 12th fans, we will do our best to get over it and definitely there will be some changes.”
In spite of the result, Fandi was pleased with his players’ performances as he felt that they gave their all in the game and put up a tough fight.
“We aim to get a goal and we got a goal. But then we did not defend well during every counter-attack by Pahang,” said the 53-year-old.
“But I thought we are in control of the game in the first half. We controlled but they scored the goal. Mistakes will happen because they are a young team but we need to try to avoid these mistakes.
“The fighting spirit was there and they need to learn their mistakes but I don’t fault them as they did their best.”
While Fandi refused to reveal his game plan for the return fixture, he identified several key areas of concern that his players needed to make changes to.
“Their foreigners made a difference tonight because their two strikers are the best in the league as they have good partnership, knock-down and understanding,” said Fandi.
“Especially Nwakaeme who is physically very strong. Nobody can physically can fight him, but we got to go back home and reshuffle the line-up. We need our big guys to fight their big guys.”