LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad believes his side put up one of their best performances this season in the 4-2 upset victory over pacesetters Pahang FA on Saturday night.
Much was made of Pahang’s 12-game unbeaten streak in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) before this game, but the LionsXII managed to take them apart without too much fuss via goals from Faris Ramli (two), Madhu Mohana and Safuwan Baharudin.
The victory meant the LionsXII extended their unbeaten streak at the Jalan Besar Stadium to 12 games this season, which left coach Fandi a pleased man at the post-match press conference.
“Almost everyone played their best games tonight,” the 53-year-old said.
“Madhu’s a big factor for us at the back; he’s more matured and confident now. He's good in set pieces especially in attack and defence. Shakir (Hamzah) did a good job, outjumping and tackling everyone.
“You can see Safuwan is all over the field. Although we put him as a No.10, you see him running up and down; creating chances and helping the team out in defence. Also Nazrul (Nazari) gave a lot (at right midfield) after many months of playing at right back and now Faritz (Hameed) is also back fit.
“Of course Faris was the man for us again and he contributed by scoring that two goals.”
A key reason for the LionsXII’s emphatic victory was the introduction of Sahil Suhaimi and Christopher van Huizen in the second half.
Both substitutes made their presences felt within seconds of their respective entries.
The former quickly laid the ball off for Faris to lash home his second goal of the night, while the latter’s first touch was an inswinging corner which led to Safuwan’s thunderous close-range strike.
“(Khairul) Nizam was a bit off in the second half so I told Safuwan he needs to push higher, because I want to put in either Sahil or Shahdan (Sulaiman)” Fandi explained.
“I chose Sahil, which I thought was the right choice because he’s very nippy and he goes around players. Then we brought in Chris because he has pace and he can create something; most importantly he can keep the ball and works very hard.”
This victory sets the LionsXII up nicely for next Wednesday’s big away clash against defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Fandi is hoping that first-choice striker Khairul Amri can recover from injury to make his matchday squad.
“We need a striker, so hopefully Amri can come back soon,” the former Singapore international said.
“He trained in the gym yesterday and is getting better now. It’s going to be a very tough game against JDT but our boys love to play against all the big teams.
“Even though it’s going to be tough, I told them it’s about going out there to challenge themselves against better players.”
Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo