By Kenneth Tan
After a dismal 1-0 defeat to Sime Darby the last time out, the LionsXII gaffer wants his boys to come out with fire in their bellies tonight
SINGAPORE, 15 April 2014: Before last Saturday’s game against Sime Darby FC, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad had spoken about the importance of making home advantage count – given that three of their four next Malaysian Super League (MSL) games will be played at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Thus there was little surprise that he was not exactly in the best of moods at the post-match press conference after his side went down 1-0 to the visitors.
He displayed a slightly more jovial demeanour while taking his teams through the paces on Monday’s training session, but remained stern about what he wants the boys to achieve in this match against leaders Pahang FA.
“I was very disappointed (after Saturday’s game),” he told the media after rain has interrupted his training plans.
“I believe the players also regretted that, but I told them there is no point doing so and just prove it in this upcoming game. For me, Pahang is the best team in the league. They’ve been winning five to six matches in a row, they’re consistent away from home and they have the best foreigners.
Upfront they have two strong finishers (Dickson Nwakaeme and Matias Conti) and at the back, they have the Twin Towers (Damion Stewart and Zesh Rehman). That’s the difference between them and the other teams, thus I want the players to fight right from the start.”
The LionsXII are now sixth in the MSL table and seven points adrift of the top. It is a deficit which Coach Fandi is adamant that his boys can still make up for.
“We have a lot of catching up to do, now that the leaders are moving away from us,” he admitted.
“But along the way, there’ll be ups and downs and some teams will falter. Seven points is still not that far away thus we must believe in the players. We need very strong characters so that we can do this.”
With the side struggling for goals in this campaign, coach Fandi has decided to tinker with his strike force by handing Khairul Nizam his first start of the season alongside his half-brother Khairul Amri. This is a strike pairing which the former national striker believes is the best that the team can offer as he urges Nizam to show what he is truly capable of.
“We have to push him,” he said.
“He really needs to come up and play because it’s about time. Our target was for him to come back in March and it’s already April now. He has been training well for the last two weeks and I think it’s about the right time now. I hope he doesn’t complain about anything else.
He needs to take care of himself and I believe if he can do so, he can be the best striker which we have in the new few years. He has good speed and good strength, although the first touch is not too good yet.”
Given the massive quality that Pahang possesses, Coach Fandi wants his side to approach this game in a slightly more tactical manner.
“This is a different game and we got to be safe first,” explained the 51-year-old.
“We need to be solid defensively before we go on the attack. We need workers who can press them hard. They have strong individuals all over; there is Gopi (R Gopinathan) and (Azamuddin) Akil who will run all over the shop, a distributor like Hafiz (Kamal) and even their full-backs can send balls into space. Meanwhile upfront, Dickson will turn and shoot.
We know how they play, but whether we can stop them is another thing altogether.”
This game against Pahang FA will kick-off at 7.45pm tonight at Jalan Besar Stadium. Tickets for the game remain available for this game and fans can get them via TicketBooth. For those who are unable to obtain tickets, you can catch the game ‘LIVE’ via StarHub Channel 201 (SuperSports Arena).
Do support the boys as they aim to take down the current league leaders!