Written by: Shawn Lim
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is wary of a vengeful Terengganu FA side ahead of the Malaysia Cup Group A clash on Saturday night at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Turtles fell to a shocking 5-0 defeat to Kedah FA last week and ended the match with nine men on the field.
In contrast, the LionsXII are riding high with confidence after a brace from Safuwan Baharudin led them to a 2-1 defeat of Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT II) and now sit in second-place, level on points with leaders Kedah.
However, Fandi has cautioned against underestimating the Turtles and feel that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
“It will be a difficult game because they will come back even stronger after the thrashing,” said the 53-year-old.
“The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story because they had two players sent off and they went into the break on level terms despite being one man down.
“Now, they have (Paulo) Rangel back and he will be a problem for us because he gives them more confidence. But we are used to him and we have to adapt to a strategy that will not allow him to hurt us.
“However, football is a team game, so we cannot focus too much on Rangel because they have Issey (Nakajima-Farran) and Ashari (Samsudin) plus Ismail Faruqi who are very dangerous if we give them the opportunity to play.”
A draw will be good enough for the LionsXII to remain in second place, but Fandi is keen to achieve maximum points instead.
“I will not be happy with a draw because we need to collect three points at home and steal one or two points or even three points away from home,” asserted the former Singapore International footballer.
“We need to stay compact because we have fast wingers who can deliver the killer passes and crosses.
“In the end, we must be willing to win this game and willing to fight for every ball. We should also try not to give away too many set-pieces because they have really tall players.
“This is a very tough tournament and every team that is participating in this tournament will be playing very hard because it is also a very prestigious tournament.
“We have talked to our boys about the history of this tournament and I believe they are willing to fight to the end.”
Fandi highlighted the assuring performance of striker Sahil Suhaimi after the JDT II game and hinted that the 23-year-old could be given yet another start.
“He’s playing very well at the moment, even in training. We hope to give him another chance and hopefully he can deliver this time,” said Fandi.
“He was unlucky in the last game because he saw two of his chances hit the post but the most important thing was that he worked hard for the team.
“I’m very happy that he is rediscovering his form.”
Sahil agreed with his coach’s assessment, but feels that he can improve even further.
“Personally, I think I did well against JDT II because I created a lot of chances and helped my teammates in other departments as well,” said the stocky striker. “But I know I still have a lot of areas to improve on.”
“The next match against Terengganu will be very crucial because both teams need a win. We need to stay focus and do what we did against JDT II. Hopefully, that will be enough for us to get a win.”