Relieved Fandi believes Nizam-Amri partnership can get better yet

The LionsXII boss believes his side's prospects of success in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) will soon be boosted by the impact of their new strike duo.

The relief in Fandi Ahmad’s expression was obvious after his LionsXII earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sarawak FA at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

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It was only their second (MSL) win of the season since their opening match in February against PDRM FA.

They then went on a run of seven league fixtures without a win, struggling with four draws and three defeats over the next couple of months.

When quizzed on why LionsXII were struggling in the MSL when they had little difficulty brushing aside lower-league opponents in the FA Cup, Fandi suggested luck hadn’t been on their side in league matches.

“Sometimes luck plays an important part,” he said. “[Against] Felda United we should have won; [against] Perak we should also have won.

“We struggled playing against the foreigners [in the Super League], but not the locals. We have to play differently tactically because we cannot play the way the likes of Johor Darul Ta’zim and Terengganu do.”

The former national striker added he felt his charges performed credibly despite their limited abilities and amidst the regular switches due to injuries.

“Although our players are not on par with the better Super League teams, we play with a lot of determination,” he said.

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“We put in a lot of hard running and counter-attacking because those are our strengths. You must complement them [the players] because they have managed to live up to expectations in certain games despite our best players not being available.”

Fandi was satisfied with how the half-brother strike partnership of Khairul Amri and Khairul Nizam has paid dividends, with the team achieving recent consecutive wins in all competitions.

“I am happy with the way Amri and Nizam had combined in the last few games, but they can be better,” he said.

“Against big foreign defenders, it is not easy for any of our players to get past them as we have to battle with their physical presence.”

The coach was also heartened by the upward progress Nizam in particular had been displaying in recent games, and felt the 23-year-old could make the push to become a mainstay in the line-up.

“Nizam is a good player but he needs time. In the past three-and-a-half years, he only played five matches,” he continued.

“He is getting better and stronger and I hope he keeps himself fit for every game, because sometimes he keeps getting injuries that even we don’t understand ourselves.

“Nizam can be even more precise with his control and the one-two passes. The biggest advantage he has is his ability to jump and provide knock-downs for his team-mates with his powerful presence.”