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Finally, the Nizam-Amri strike partnership
Finally, strike duo look set for an extended run together, much to Fandi's delight
LIONSXII v SARAWAK
(Tonight, Jalan Besar Stadium, 7.45pm)
Many experts felt it would be an explosive partnership, but for so long, injuries meant it never even had a chance to be truly tested.
Now, as Khairul Nizam gets stronger and stronger and begins to find his scoring touch, just maybe, his strike partnership with Khairul Amri will enjoy an extended run to see just how good the half-brothers can be, working together.
After encouraging signs in Tuesday's Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final triumph over second-tier Johor Darul Ta'zim II, the two strikers will be unleashed in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash against Sarawak tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Speaking to The New Paper on the eve of the match, Nizam said: "I'm happy even to be playing. It was a tough time to be out injured for so long throughout these three years.
"I have to thank my team-mates, coaches and backroom staff for keeping their faith in me. If not for their support, I surely would have quit the game.
"In my first three games, I was still so rusty because I haven't been playing in competitive matches. I had so much to work on in terms of match fitness and communication with my team-mates.
"Thankfully, I have not taken too long to score and I just want to keep working hard and keep scoring."
In five games, Nizam has already scored twice - first in the 3-2 MSL defeat at Pahang and then in Tuesday's 2-0 FA Cup win over JDT II - and he has shown he can combine well with chief striker, Amri.
The 23-year-old striker had been plagued with knee injuries since 2012 and has not enjoyed a full season since.
But there seems to be a reprieve this season.
Nizam has slowly worked himself back and is beginning to show glimpses of the force he can be.
Coach Fandi Ahmad will need Nizam and Amri to fire tonight, to end the LionsXII's seven-match winless streak in the MSL.
To compound matters, Fandi is set to lose first-choice attacker Faris Ramli and striker Sahil Suhaimi when they link-up with the national Under-23s after tonight's match, as the Young Lions prepare for the upcoming SEA Games.
Said Fandi: "This is why Nizam's return is so important and timely for us. We now have a good option when Faris and Sahil are not playing.
"Nizam gives us that physical edge up front against the big foreign defenders. Amri and Nizam can also interchange positions and pose problems for opponents.
"Nizam still can get better. We saw against Pahang and JDT II he is one of those players with good scoring instincts. His strength in the air will be very helpful in set-pieces in defence and attack.
"The key now is we have to keep him fit and help him to improve and get to top form."
Sarawak, under Robert Alberts, are also looking to snap a run of just one win in seven games.
The good news is... Fandi will be able to field his strongest 11 on the back of the morale-boosting run into the Malaysian FA Cup semi-finals.
Said Nizam: "We have trained well and morale is generally good. I don't really understand why we haven't been getting the results.
"Sometimes we just had no luck and sometimes it was probably fatigue from playing back-to-back games.
"But we cannot think about the past.
"It's a new game against Sarawak and we want to play well and win in front of our fans."
Injury curtails Safuwan's A-League stint
Only one kidney functioning, but cager Hanbin has great heart
After bronze in 2013, he's hoping for even better at this year's SEA Games
Sprint. Jump. Bump. Stretch.
Day and night, 10 times a week.
At one stage they all looked to be beyond Ng Hanbin, whose hopes of pursuing a basketball career looked as if it would only be a pipe dream.
With only one functioning kidney -- the other failed at age three -- the rigours of the game were apparently too dangerous for him.
But, in a remarkable show of resilience, courage and determination, Ng is set to play a key role in the men’s national basketball team as they battle for a medal at the South-east Asia Games in Singapore from June 5 to 16.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, the 26-year-old said: “Because of my condition, after training or matches, I can’t take protein powder and recovery supplements.
“So I can only spend more time in the gym to bulk up. I need to stay hydrated, but I also have to be careful not to over-hydrate.”
Read the full report in our print edition on April 25.
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