Written by: Nigel Chin
24 May 2015: When LionsXII lifted the 2015 Malaysia FA Cup yesterday evening, the team were under no doubt about what brought about their victory: Teamwork.
Back by approximately 6,000 fans who had made the trip up to the 90,000 capacity stadium filled by Kelantan’s fans, LionsXII were forced to defend stoutly together as a team for large parts of the game, despite taking an early lead through Faris Ramli in the sixth minute.
The opener was eventually cancelled out in the second half by Wan Zack Haikal, until Sahil Suhaimi settled the contest with two goals inside the final 10 minutes of the game.
LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad said that their display of unity was exactly what brought about their triumph.
Fandi added: “That’s our team; we don’t have any stars but we proved everyone wrong especially Kelantan fans.
“Kelantan are one of the best teams, and they deserve credit because they were attacking and trying so hard. [But it was a] solid performance by our defenders and especially our goalkeeper Izwan (Mahbud). “
Vice-captain Izwan was also voted the man-of-the-match, after the goalkeeper pulled off several stunning saves to keep his team in the game.
However, Izwan wanted to share the credit with his teammates, and claimed that winning the match would have been impossible without them.
“Like coach said, we don’t have a star in the team,” Izwan stated. “Everybody has a part to play and worked hard.
“It’s all about the team, and this man-of-the-match [award] is the hard work of the team, because without Nazrul clearing the ball in the first-half that would have been a goal.
“This one is down to their dedication, passion and teamwork. I know my defence, and I trust them. They defended very well in front of me, and they rose to the occasion.
“I want to thank the backroom staff for helping us prepare for the game. I can’t believe we won, but we really won, and I want to thank the staff for helping us.”
Fandi also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the team for putting in an immense shift as it allowed him to lay his hand on the FA Cup for the first time in his career.
“I’ve never won the Cup (as a player or a coach), so the Cup is a special one,” Fandi beamed at the post-match press conference.
“Last night, I told you I will bring home the Cup. We did it in a very frustrating way because Kelantan were so good, they have so much firepower, but I thought our boys deserve to win it because we have more grit and determination.”
Football Association of Singapore vice-president Edwin Tong was present at the game and he praised the team for showing heart in a game that they were deemed as underdogs.
“I think it was a truly spectacular final,” Tong said. “Tonight’s opponents were very tough, very fast and very physical, very fast.
“They were very much in the game and it was really due to a super-sub, and Sahil’s goals that made the difference – it was a superbly taken goal.
“I’m very proud of the team… It’s a wonderful team effort.”