Madhu: LionsXII looking for FA Cup redemption
The loss to the Red Giants on Saturday was the LionsXII’s heaviest defeat in their four-year history – eclipsing the 4-1 reverse to ATM FA in the second leg of the 2013 Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.
Defensive lapses and individual mistakes led to the Singaporean side conceding three goals in the opening 16 minutes, a deficit from which they couldn't recover from.
Speaking to FourFourTwo, centre-back Madhu Mohana readily acknowledged that the display was simply not acceptable.
“It was a real disaster for all of us to concede three goals at such an early stage,” he said.
“The first and last 15 minutes in each half is very important – that all boils down to concentration. We took a while to settle into the game and that caused us the game. Coach (Fandi Ahmad) was very disappointed with us and he had every right to be.
“Not only did we let ourselves down, we also let down the fans who kept their belief and support for us. This defeat hurts because it was the biggest loss in my four years with the LionsXII so far, but now we have to forget about this defeat, learn from our mistakes and move on.”
Madhu, who has been enjoying a rock-solid year at the heart of defence in the absence of Safuwan Baharudin, was also guilty of committing an uncharacteristic error that led to the fourth goal that night.
The 24-year-old failed to control a long ball out of defence from Selangor, allowing Brazilian forward Guilherme De Paula to steal the ball off him before coolly slotting past Izwan Mahbud.
Reflecting on the error, Madhu has vowed not to let history repeat itself again.
“It was a really bad lapse of concentration on my part,” he said.
“It just goes to prove that it’s really important to stay focused for the full 90 minutes. All it takes is one mistake and we’ll be punished. As a professional player, mistakes will be made. What is important now is that I have to learn quickly from this and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The LionsXII will have little time to dwell on their disappointment, with a trip to Pasir Gudang to face JDT II in the second leg of the Malaysia FA Cup quarter-finals up next.
They hold a 2-0 advantage after the first leg at Jalan Besar Stadium two weeks ago, with Madhu and company have yet to concede any goals yet in the Cup after shutouts against PB Melayu Kedah and KL SPA Putrajaya.
“It’s good that we have kept clean sheets so far in the FA Cup and it is something which we needs to build on for the league as well,” Madhu said.
“It’s always tough playing against huge foreign strikers, thus we need to have the teamwork and discipline at the back. If we help each other out, we will be harder to break down as a team.
“So far we’ve been working out the communication and being compact as a team in training, which is something we need to translate into this game.”
The task is not that straightforward though for Fandi’s boys though, given that they are likely to face a hostile reception at the 15,000-seater Stadium Pasir Gudang and from former colleague Shahril Ishak.
However, Madhu believes his side has what it takes to pull through the tie and secure a first-ever FA Cup semi-final spot.
“It’s going to be a really tough game there,” he said.
“Although we have a two-goal advantage, we can’t afford to be complacent. We have to stay calm, concentrate and stick to the coach’s plan for us.
“Shahril’s a very technically good player, but we know how he plays and we can use that knowledge to our advantage. I’m sure we’re all hyped up and ready for this game.”
A draw or a defeat by less than two goals is enough to send the LionsXII through to a two-legged semi-final tie with Terengganu FA.