Baihakki raring to go for home ‘debut’
This has been a match that Baihakki Khaizan has been looking forward to since re-joining the LionsXII on loan.
Tonight’s Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash against Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (ATM) will see the veteran making his first home appearance for the defending champions since September 2013.
With Afiq Yunos and Madhu Mohana suspended, he is set to partner stand-in captain Safuwan Baharudin in the heart of defence.
“Of course I’m happy,” he told FourFourTwo after his side’s final pre-match training session at ITE Ang Mo Kio on Friday evening.
“I’m looking forward to this game and hopefully there will be a good crowd.
"The results for the past few games have been disheartening so I hope I can do my part tomorrow to get a positive one this time round.”
The 30-year-old’s last game at the Jalan Besar Stadium did not exactly end in glory, as he was sent off just before half time in the Singapore’s 3-1 defeat to Jordan back in February.
However he felt that tonight’s game would not be all about personal redemption.
“To me, a sending off is a sending off,” he said.
“There is no need for me to take it emotionally and think negatively.
"I should just enjoy my game since this is my own country and everybody is behind me.”
On Tuesday night, Baihakki watched on helplessly from the stands as his team let slip a two-goal lead against his former side Johor Darul Ta’zim.
There were some contentious refereeing decisions once again, but the defender believes that such setbacks will only serve to make them mentally tougher.
“Of course, it’s frustrating to see those calls from the referees,” Baihakki said.
“But I always believe that when we work extra hard, things will be different.
"All of them who were involved in that game knew how they fare, so definitely they will try not to make those mistakes and get stronger game-by-game.”
Having lost three games in a row, Baihakki readily admitted that the mood in the dressing room was not the most upbeat right now.
“Who likes losing three games in a row?” he asked.
“Everybody is down, but it’s designed like that.
"You can’t say you need a tea break and relax, you have to keep going.
"The mind need to quickly adjust and adapt, it’s all about how you approach the next game.”
However the players still looked to be in high spirits in training as they strive to improve their position on the table.
“The best part about us is we leave everything behind and start fresh again,” Baihakki said.
“Sometimes coach Fandi talks to players personally and we try not to think about the negatives.
"Sometimes it’s these kind of little things which helps… As you can see, we’re laughing during training.
"When you start winning games, that’s when things will start to change and stabilize.”
With the side now eighth on the table and 13 points adrift of leaders Selangor, Baihakki believes they should now focus on their attentions towards preparing for the Malaysia Cup tournament which kicks off in August.
“Of course our position in the league is not the best right now,” he admitted.
“Anything can still happen, but now we can see teams moving up and leaving a gap.
"We don’t have a good run in the past few games and the opportunity to finish on top is very slim, thus we’ll try not to finish in the bottom half and prepare better for the Malaysia Cup.”
It may seem like a straightforward clash for the LionsXII against a troubled ATM side on Saturday night, with the side languishing in ninth spot and no longer having the services of potent hitman Marlon James, but Baihakki believes his side should not take a victory for granted.
“ATM had their setbacks this year,” said the man with 105 national caps.
“They changed a few players and may not be as dangerous as before, but still they’re a hardworking team.
"[Their captain] Hairuddin Omar is the leader of the pack; he’s a very influential person and I’ve always admired his leadership, so we need to watch out for him.
"Besides that, we need to stay disciplined at the back and take our chances very well upfront. Hopefully a win can change everything for us.”
The clash between LionsXII and ATM will kick off at 7.45pm tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium.