LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was an unhappy man after his side’s lacklustre display in a 1-1 home draw against Kedah FA in their Malaysia Cup Group A opener on Saturday night.
The LionsXII have won 11 out of 14 home games in all competitions this season, thrilling many with their swashbuckling displays at their Jalan Besar den.
But the Singaporeans struggled to find clear-cut openings against Malaysia Premier League champions Kedah, with Shahdan Sulaiman’s equaliser needing a deflection to deceive Kedah keeper Abdul Hadi Hamid.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, Fandi did not mince his words when asked about his side’s insipid showing.
“It’s one of our worst performances so far,” the 53-year-old said. “Kedah were the better side and we’re very lucky to get a point at home.
“I’m disappointed with some players tonight. How can we win if four or five players are not in the game?
“I don’t see any fire and desire tonight; we were slow and lethargic in every pass and every tackle.
“The goal was a lucky one and we did not even create any chances. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror now. We were over-confident and took things for granted.”
With striker Khairul Amri suspended, Fandi opted to utilise Safuwan Baharudin as the lone man upfront before throwing Khairul Nizam on in the second half.
The LionsXII coach admitted that the gamble had backfired on him.
“It definitely did not work for us,” he said. “We missed Amri dearly and needed a target man who can hold up play, so we tried Safuwan due to his aerial superiority but he did not have much support.
“It was a mistake but we cannot gamble for the first game. We were not fast enough moving forward and Kedah had good midfielders who can harass us.
“They closed down Faris (Ramli) and Christopher (Van Huizen) who were non-existent on the wings.”
Winger Faris did not hide the fact that he had an off-day and has vowed to work harder in the remaining five group games to avoid a second successive group stage exit from the Malaysia Cup.
“It was very difficult for us to play such a disciplined team like Kedah, especially their full backs,” the 23-year-old said. “Chris and I were shut off, plus the rest of us cannot really play well because of their tactics.
“I think the haze also affected us a bit because some players had difficulties breathing.
“It’s a disappointing result for us, but we’ve been telling each other that this is just the first game and it’s not the end.
“Nothing has been taken away from us yet so we just need to train harder and come back strongly from this result.”
Next up for the LionsXII will be a visit to Pasir Gudang to take on Johor Darul Ta’zim II, with Fandi emphasising the importance of getting three points against old boys Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan.
“The only way for us to qualify is to win some away games and collect the full points at home,” he said. “There’s five more games and anything can still happen.
“The boys know the history of the tournament and if they want to go far, they have to work hard now.”
Photo: Football Association of Singaporecomments