Shahdan in line for first start as Fandi looks to rotate

Midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman is set to start his first game since returning from his horrific ankle injury, with LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad looking to play him in an advanced role.


The wait has been long but it may well end this Saturday night against Kelantan FA in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

Eight months on after that unfortunate collision with team-mate Khairul Amri during the AFF Suzuki Cup clash between Singapore and Myanmar, Shahdan is set to start in a competitive game again.

With Kelantan’s big centre-back Jonathan McKain suspended for this game, LionsXII coach Fandi has been experimenting with the 27-year-old in an advanced role behind Amri in training as he plots to take down the Red Warriors.

“We’ve been trying to look at Shahdan playing with Amri where we can rotate,” he told FourFourTwo after his side’s training session at the Geylang field on Thursday evening.

“In training, [Shahdan] looked mobile, but in terms of aggression and contact, we’re not sure yet.

“However I think it is worth to give this [partnership] a try and give ourselves more options.”

Having undergone surgery to fix the fractured tibia and fibula, Shahdan was out of action for almost five months before making his comeback against Sime Darby in early May as a late substitute.

He subsequently made another cameo against ATM FA two weeks ago where he scored with his first touch of the ball.

Clearly easing his way back into the LionsXII first team, Shahdan believes he has now fully recovered from that horrific injury.

“No, I actually don’t feel any pain anymore,” he said.  

“If I really get to start, it will be my first start after so long so I’m not sure how my feelings will be on that day itself.

“Right now I’m happy but also a bit nervous, hopefully everything will go just fine.”

The decisive battle on Saturday night could well be in midfield where the likes of Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq will take on the talismanic figure of Kelantan captain Badhri Radzi.

Having watched them closely during training, Shahdan believes the duo will be up to the task.

“I’ve played against Badhri back in 2012 (in my first spell with the club) and I think he’s quite an intelligent player,” the former Tampines Rovers man said.

“He’s the main man who dictates play in the centre so we definitely have to keep a close watch on him and stop him from playing the ball to his strikers.

“So far I’m happy that they (Safuwan and Izddin) have been doing well. They can contribute to both attack and defence, which makes my job easier and helps to take the burden off me.

“Although they’re younger, but there’s nothing much for me to teach them anymore.

“They’ve played in the national team so I just need to guide them a bit and help the team out whenever needed.”

Apart from Shahdan, Sahil Suhaimi is also set to take Faris Ramli’s place on the left wing with the latter still seemingly jaded from his exertions at the SEA Games.

Meanwhile Shakir Hamzah should move to centre-back to fill in the void left behind by the injured Zulfahmi Arifin.

Head coach Fandi hope the changes can help to reinvigorate his side as they look to bounce back after the two indifferent results against ATM and PDRM FA.

“We need to watch out for their big and strong foreign attackers like Gilmar, (Erwin) Carrillo and (Austin) Amutu,” he said.

“If they start pumping long balls, it will be hard for us to contain so we have to go out and pressure them quite high up the pitch.

“In the last few games, we did not get the results although we created chances. This time I hope they can pick up again and hopefully Amri can find his scoring boots.”