With Afiq Yunos battling injury, the stage is set for LionsXII duo Madhu Mohana and Wahyudi Wahid to pair up in central defence against PDRM in their opening Malaysian Super League fixture (MSL) against PDRM.
Despite having not partnered each other in any of the pre-season friendly games, the pair believe that their friendship off the pitch will help them on it.
“It’s good that we can communicate well on and off the field,” Wahyudi told FourFourTwo after Thursday evening’s training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
“We knew each other because we had mutual friends, but we weren’t that close then.
“Since joining LionsXII, we grew really close because Madhu is such a friendly guy and easy to talk with. We do simple things together, like going for dinner after training.”
“It really helps when we have good rapport outside,” Madhu echoed.
“In the game, we will know how to adapt. Game is game and work is work – even if we have arguments during the game, we know that once it’s over we’re still good friends off the pitch. The most important thing is to get the job done on the pitch.”
With Afiq diagnosed with gout after the team’s recent participation in the pre-season President of Maldives Invitational Football Cup (POMIS Cup) in Maldives, the duo have only started working on the partnership in training for the past week.
Despite that, they have developed a game plan on how to contain the twin threats of PDRM forwards Ali Ashfaq and Dramane Traore.
“On the field, it will be Madhu who’s doing all the communication and leading the back four because of his experience,” Wahyudi said.
“I’ll just be behind him covering his back and listening to his commands.”
“Of course we have to play according to the tactics that Fandi gave us, but it really depends on the in-match situation,” Madhu said.
“We can’t be out of position. If the tall guy (Traore) sticks to him (Wahyudi), I cannot be marking the other guy (Ashfaq) all the way. The thing about our partnership is that we have to be good in terms of covering each other.
“If one of us is not there, the other has to be there to clean things up.”
Friendly loss to spur LionsXII on
Just a little over a week ago, the two sides locked horns at the POMIS Cup where the LionsXII lost out narrowly due to Traore’s penalty.
The 1-0 loss meant the Singaporeans failed to reach the final of the quadrangular competition.
They played a total of three games in Maldives, including a 2-1 defeat to Maziya S&RC and a 3-1 win against New Radiant SC.
Madhu believes the experience was a good gauge of the challenges ahead of this brand new Malaysian Super League (MSL) season.
“These three games gave us a rough idea of how tough it’s going to be,” he said.
“It’s good that we met PDRM before the start of the season. We can see that they’re a very good side even though they have just promoted. It’s good for all the youngsters and also for Wahyudi who hasn’t got experience playing in the MSL - now he know the league won’t be easy.”
Set to make his MSL debut on Saturday, Wahyudi’s career has come a long way in the last few years.
When the LionsXII were participating in their inaugural MSL season back in 2012, the 25-year-old was busy trying out a new career path and only managed to catch one game as a spectator that season.
He admitted that to feeling the butterflies in his stomach but hoped to thrive on the added pressure as a LionsXII player.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling!” he chuckled.
“When I was at Geylang (International) and Hougang (United), there weren’t any targets for me and I just focused on enjoying my football. That is until I joined this team then I started setting personal targets.
“I can’t really remember which game I came for in 2012, but I recalled it was my friend who invited me to come down to watch. That was my first time watching the LionsXII – the feeling was shiok lah.
“You don’t really see that kind of crowds in the S.League and I’m a person who really loves playing in front of big crowds. I’m really excited for this game, especially that my family will be in the stands supporting me.”
Meanwhile Madhu called on the LionsXII faithful to turn up in full force tomorrow.
“It’ll be good to play in front of a full stadium for a first game of the season,” he said.
“It won’t be an easy game but surely the fans can give us the motivation to pull off a result.”comments