Fandi: We aim to entertain as well as win matches
The team showed glimpses of what they were capable of in last Saturday’s 3-0 thrashing of Kelantan, displaying neat and incisive passing movement in the attacking third.
Faris Ramli's third goal on the night was a thing of beauty, as he cut inside from the left flank, exchanged passes with Shahdan Sulaiman before firing low past a stranded Khairul Fahmi Che Mat – prompting coach Fandi Ahmad to describing it as “one of the best” performances from the class of 2015 thus far.
The coach was pleased to see his persistence in playing combination football finally paying off and remarked that his side had the responsibility to both entertain and win matches at the same time.
“Definitely this is the way we want to play,” he told FourFourTwo after his side’s training session at Serangoon Garden Secondary School on Monday evening.
“We want to entertain as well as win matches, so we’ve been trying to play like this since last year with a lot of interchanging of positions, overlapping, short and diagonal passes.
“Definitely the fans want to see improvement in intensity and a higher level of football; I thought we gave that.
“I’m sure they’re very appreciative with the way we played. I heard some applause after a few passes and we put together 10 to 15 passes together at one stage. That is something rare but we’ve been trying.
Now Fandi hopes that his side can maintain the same level of performance, if not improve further as they set sights on at least a top-half finish – the LionsXII are now on seventh in the 12-team table, a point adrift of nearest rivals PDRM FA.
“The important thing is the combination and understanding, they’ve reached that level where they cannot go down,” emphasized the 53-year-old.
“With this level of football, they can match the Malaysian teams which have four foreigners with this level of football so they have to maintain and believe in the strategy. Hopefully it does not last for just one game.
“We’re trying to get better in terms of going forward for counter attacks; we must really get into the position to score goals before the opponents get organized.
“Also we need to tight up in the central areas where Safuwan (Baharudin) and Shahdan tend to be the more attacking ones.
“Izzdin usually wants to attack, but now I give him this role which he always has to sit behind. In situations where he goes up, then Safuwan must be back to cover him.”
'Rarely a coach changes a winning team'
While refusing to divulge his team’s strategy for the upcoming game against Perak, Fandi has hinted that he is likely to keep the same lineup that started against Kelantan.
Playmaker Shahdan is expected to resume his role just behind lone striker Khairul Amri, while first-choice goalie Izwan Mahbud is recovering well from his knee injury and should be fit enough to take up the spot between the sticks.
That should be a big boost as they look to stifle the dangerous strike duo of Namkung Woong and Charles Souza Chad.
“I’ve still yet to decide, but rarely a coach changes a winning team,” he said.
“Perak is a hard-running team with a few youngsters and good foreigners.
“The Korean (Namkung) and the Brazilian (Chad) are mobile and aggressive upfront, plus the centre back (Thiago Junior Aquino) will come up, so we need to be very focused and careful on set pieces.”