Fandi: Lady Luck wasn't with us
After going undefeated at home for 18 months, the LionsXII finally crashed to a 2-1 loss at the Jalan Besar Stadium at the hands of Pahang FA in the Malaysia FA Cup on Saturday evening.
Having lost to the same opponents in the opening game of the season, the LionsXII were looking to make use of their home advantage to progress to the quarter finals. But two quick-fire goals in the second half by Hafiz Kamal and Azidan Sarudin gave the home side too high a mountain to climb, despite an own goal late in the game.
Still, head coach Fandi Ahmad was more than satisfied with his team’s performance as he blamed bad luck for them not being able to find the equaliser.
“Our boys fought till the end trying to get a goal,” Fandi said at the post-match press conference.
“We were confident trying to equalise and we had chances but Lady Luck wasn’t with us today. We bombarded them in the last 20 minutes and I thought the boys gave their all.
“I thank them for the effort, and the fans for still supporting us. That’s the way we should play for the season. The most important thing for me is not only about winning; it’s the way we play, the determination we show, the teamwork, the courage. This is good for the young players we are developing. And of course the positive side is we can focus on the league.”
Fandi was also pleased at how his side responded after going behind, especially when they threw caution out of the window.
“In these times of critical moments, we need to sacrifice,” he said.
“Even if we were losing 5-0 we should have attacked all the way. We can’t defend while losing 1-0 or 2-0; it’s still a knockout phase. So for us it’s very important we show people how football should be played.
“It’s very difficult [to break the Pahang defense] because they have twin towers there (centre-backs Zesh Rehman and Damion Stewart) so it’s not easy to get the crosses in. We told them to dribble down the line and cut the ball back.
“But it seems nine of them are in the box, it was very, very hard to penetrate. Only a team like Arsenal can break them through the center, and we’re still far away from that!”
The defeat means that the LionsXII have now lost their unbeaten record, but Fandi was non-plussed about it.
“It’s not a problem, [records are] meant to be broken one day, sooner or later,” he reasoned.
“There is no more pressure. They can express themselves in the game. For me that is most important. The boys were worried about losing at home, so today we got it. It’s over now, and nobody should talk about it.”
Pahang coach Ronald Smith, on the other hand, was thrilled to have beaten the LionsXII for the second time in a month despite a nervy finish to the game.
“We scored two goals inside 10 minutes and [then] I said to myself I hope we don’t stop playing and sort of go into our shell, and that’s exactly what happens," the relieved Englishman said.
"Football’s a funny thing sometimes. You work hard to try and get an advantage, and then you make life difficult for yourself.”
He also paid tribute to the LionsXII side after they pushed his team right to the very end.
“I thought the LionsXII played extremely well,” he stated.
“They’re the best organised team that I’ve seen so far in the competition. I thought they played very well tonight, kept their composure even when things were getting a bit desperate at the end, and I was quite pleased to just hang on.”
The LionsXII will resume their league charge next week as they face Terengganu FA on February 8 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.