Fandi: We have grown as a team this season

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad believes his side are showing signs of maturity after a comeback victory against Perak FA last night.

The LionsXII fell behind to a 13th minute Namkung Woong goal, but managed to turn things around via Hafiz Sujad’s leveller on the stroke of half time and Safuwan Baharudin’s header eight minutes into the second half.

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They managed to preserve the three points late on via an Izwan double save and Hafiz’s clearance off the line.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Fandi was pleased that his side had found the resilience to recover from a lacklustre display in the first 45 minutes.

“It was a difficult and tight game today because Perak is one of the fittest teams in the league,” he said.

“In the first half, they won the ball and did not give us time and space; they shut down all areas especially our two wingers. Then we had a defensive lapse that led to us conceding the first goal.

“But the second half was much better; there was more combination and more direction (going forward). I’ve told the players that they’ve now reached a level where they cannot afford to go down.

“They showed a lot of character and the maturity was there; they kept on fighting and stayed disciplined. This shows that we’ve grown as a team this season and hopefully we can maintain this level when the league resumes (on August 2).”  

Fandi also lavished praise on Hafiz who put in yet another all-action shift at left-back, contributing at both ends of the pitch with his equalizer and late goal-line clearance.

 “Hafiz is a silent worker who has been working hard,” said the 53-year-old.

“He can attack and defend while covering a lot of ground. That shows a lot of professionalism and determination.

“Actually before the game, I was asking him how long has it been since he scored. Suddenly he scored one and saved one on the line today!”

This result also meant the LionsXII not only dislodge PDRM FA to enter the top half of the table, but also extended their unbeaten record at home to 10 games in all competitions this season.

With four of the seven remaining league games scheduled at home, there is every reason to believe that the LionsXII can still achieve the target of a top-three finish which was set at the start of the season.

However, Fandi does not want the unbeaten home streak to get to his players’ heads ahead of the home stretch of the season.

“We must be confident with four games at home, but at the same time I don’t want to pressure them and say that they must protect this den,” the national football icon said.

“If we think too much on this, we will suffer. What’s more important is that we stay clear of injuries, focus on winning and climbing the table.”

PhotoL Weixiang Lim