Arise, superheroes

DAVID LEE picks out four players who could save the day for the LionsXII tonight

To win the Malaysian FA Cup final tonight, the LionsXII will need a Herculean effort to overcome a powerful Kelantan side who boast four foreigners.

The quartet of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, defender Madhu Mohana, midfielder Safuwan Baharudin and striker Khairul Amri are likely to play key roles in the LionsXII's bid to become the first Singaporean side to win a cup competition in Malaysian football since 1994.

- TNP ILLUSTRATIONS: BILLY KER

SUPERMAN


IZWAN MAHBUD

A regular bloke by day, Izwan morphs into Superman when he puts on the LionsXII jersey at night.

From post to post, he makes flying saves and, more often than not, the last line of defence has proved to be impenetrable. He has kept six clean sheets in 15 games.

In the fiery Bukit Jalil cauldron, Izwan will need to not just fly, but also rely on his telescopic vision to launch counter-attacks.

He has to employ his super-intelligence to know when to slow the tempo of the game, and activate his super-hearing and super-breath powers to communicate with his team amid all the cheering and jeering, and to calm his teammates down when things threaten to boil over.

Izwan's kryptonite could be Badhri Radzi's set-pieces, and he will need his defence to put up a lead wall to counter this Kelantan threat.

NIGHTCRAWLER


MADHU MOHANA

Potentially, the LionsXII are just 90 minutes from historic cup glory, and a clean sheet will go a long way to achieving that milestone.

Madhu is counting on his night vision to see through the enemy's attacks.

To transform from a right back to a centre back, Madhu's field of vision has expanded from just one flank to the entire pitch.

However, his superb spatial awareness allows him to remain in control - as it showed when he kept Paulo Rangel in check against Terengganu - and keep the defence organised even as chaos threatens to reign.

Like the Nightcrawler, Madhu has impressive flexibility, balance and body coordination, which allows him to fend off big foreign strikers, such as Kelantan's 1.86m-tall Nigerian forward Iwuji Amamchi.

IRON MAN


SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN

In a nod to Iron Man's versatility, Safuwan has also developed several specialised armoured suits for different occasions.

He can be deployed as a trusty centre back, a visionary central midfielder and even as an emergency striker.

With his genius-level football intellect, he adapts quickly to whatever position he finds himself in, which will be crucial against Kelantan as the LionsXII will need to capitalise on all of his attacking and defending abilities.

Over the years, Safuwan's body has taken a battering, with head and spinal injuries, vomit episodes, and a thigh-long scar to show for his on-pitch battles.

But it seems all he needs are the stadium lights to come on to turn on his regenerative life support, and it's all systems go again for the all-action superhero.

PUNISHER

KHAIRUL AMRI

Amri is highly trained in infiltration into heavily-guarded enemy territories and structures.

He also has an extraordinarily high pain tolerance, as shown last year, when he carried on playing in a match despite a fractured cheekbone.

His mental strength is off the charts.

He is a deadly assassin despite some career-threatening knee injuries.

He is a vigilante who takes things into his own hands.

When the chips are down and all seems lost, Amri defies the law of gravity to conjure goals out of nothing, like the defining away goal against Terengganu, when he recovered from a slip to thump the ball in off the bar.

Amri the Punisher loves to have the final say, and has already scored in three Suzuki Cup finals in 2005, 2007 and 2012 for Singapore.

In Tampines Rovers colours, he also netted the winner in the 2-1 win over Warriors FC in the 2013 Charity Shield.

And you can be sure, there won't be any room for charity from the Punisher tonight.



FINAL

KELANTAN v LIONSXII

(Tonight, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)

Amamchi looking to 'destroy' the LionsXII

Nigerian Amamchi vows to win Cup for fans but LionsXII ready to face deadly striker

ALL OUT: Kelantan dangerman Iwuji Amamchi (above) admits he is not fully fit, with what seems like a knee issue, but has vowed 
to beat the LionsXII tonight.
ALL OUT: Kelantan dangerman Iwuji Amamchi (above) admits he is not fully fit, with what seems like a knee issue, but has vowed 
to beat the LionsXII tonight.

Kelantan striker Iwuji Amamchi walked into the Bukit Jalil Stadium like he owned it.

To be sure, the 22-year-old Nigerian who joined Kelantan only last month, virtually dragged them back from the death in the semi-final second leg of the Malaysian FA Cup last week.  

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg and coming on with the score tied at 1-1, he turned the game on its head with two brilliant strikes to destroy Pahang.  

And he is looking to do the same against the LionsXII in tonight’s Malaysian FA Cup final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

“I like that word, destroy,” he said, running his fingers along his chin.

“I want to destroy the LionsXII, yes.''   

Read the full report in our print edition on May 23.

Subscribe to The New Paper, now available in print and digital, at http://bit.ly/tnpeshop.

 

Fandi holds the FA Cup without superstition

Fandi unfazed by superstition as he embraces trophy before the big battle

"Don’t worry. We hold it now, we’ll take it home tomorrow." - Unlike his counterpart Azraai Khor Abdullah, Fandi Ahmad (above) is not afraid of falling victim to the jinx of touching the trophy before a final

It is a well-known superstition for footballers — never touch a trophy before kick-off, for fear of ending up on the losing end.

In 2012, Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk committed the cardinal sin ahead of the Champions League final, and Chelsea beat the German giants 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

This perhaps explains the awkward situation Kelantan and the LionsXII were in at the Malaysian FA Cup final press conference at the Bukit Jalil Stadium yesterday afternoon.

When the photographers and videographers urged the coaches and captains of both teams to pose for a picture with the trophy, Kelantan captain Badhri Radzi and LionsXII skipper Izwan Mahbud wore stiff smiles and backed off.

Kelantan coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, known to wear his lucky pink shirt in cup finals, which he has won in six out of seven outings, looked resigned as he was made to hold one end of the 60cm-tall FA Cup.

In stark contrast, a beaming LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad flashed his charming smile as he held the other end.

“Don’t worry,” said the 52-year-old. “We hold it now, we’ll take it home tomorrow.”

Read the full report in our print edition on May 23.

Subscribe to The New Paper, now available in print and digital, at  http://bit.ly/tnpeshop.

Go, LionsXII, go

KEY ROLE: Coach Fandi Ahmad will be banking on his seniors like Safuwan Bahrudin (second from far left) to help his young LionsXII players like Gabriel Quak (third from far left) to settle down quickly in the final tonight.

Another final, a different role but the same feeling.

As the battle-hardened Fandi Ahmad embarks on yet another key showdown - but as a coach this time - his burning ambition is the same: To win.

Twenty-one years ago, at the Shah Alam Stadium outside Kuala Lumpur, he captained Singapore to a majestic 4-0 triumph over Pahang in the Malaysia Cup final.

Tonight, it's another Malaysian competition (Malaysian FA Cup), another east coast team (Kelantan).

Back in 1994, he played in a star-studded, match-winning line-up - Abbas Saad, Malek Awab, Jang Jung, David Lee, Kadir Yahaya, Nazri Nasir, et al.

Tonight, he has a team with a sprinkling of youngsters, such as Gabriel Quak and Nazrul Nazari, the likes of whom, he says, could suffer from nerves in the early stages of the final.

So, unlike in 1994, the LionsXII go into this crunch match as slight underdogs, having safely negotiated a relatively easy ride to the semi-finals.

But if the two-legged semi-final triumph over Terengganu is any indication, the LionsXII have - like their predecessors of 1994 - the fighting spirit.

And the inner desire to raise their game to win.

Just before the team left Changi Airport on Thursday afternoon for Kuala Lumpur, Fandi said: "The players are raring to go.

"They have semangat (Malay for spirit) in them. And they have pledged to give of their best.

"But my one fear is that many of them have not played - save for the semi-finals - in front of big crowds.

"Bukit Jalil could have about 90,000 spectators, mostly from Kelantan. And this could affect my younger players. I hope stage fright would not deter them."

Therefore, he is counting on seasoned players such as Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan Mahbud to lead the youngsters by example.

Cup finals are normally one-off encounters. So is tonight's match.

And there have been upsets galore, as has been seen in the English FA Cup finals, with Sunderland over Leeds (1973), Southampton over Manchester United (1976) and Wimbledon over Liverpool (1988), all by 1-0 margins.

So this is where the LionsXII can draw inspiration and encouragement.

One wonder strike could clinch it.

Fandi will not ask his team to sit back and absorb, but to go for an early goal. An initial high line is what he plans for.

Sounds logical, when you know that you have two strikers in the Khairul step-brothers - Amri and Nizam - who have the ability and temerity to find the net early.

The LionsXII defence has stood up to some severe tests.

Oh, how they withstood Terengganu's all-out second-half attack in Kuala Terengganu!

At Bukit Jalil, Izwan, Safuwan, Madhu Mohana and Izzdin Shafiq would definitely be called on to hold firm.

The Singapore outfit have all to play for.

And little to lose, as they have already performed beyond expectations.

Strengthened by the return of a quartet of SEA Games players, most notably winger Faris Ramli, they must believe that victory is possible.

A win tonight will give Singapore football a much-needed boost.

And the timing could not have been better, with the South-east Asia (SEA) Games just a couple of weeks away.

So a sport anticipates and a nation awaits.

School of frock: So much fashion...

So little space. With the ongoing Cannes International Film Festival churning out a gown a minute, we're up to our eyeballs in couture, says JEANMARIE TAN

ERIN O'CONNOR

ERIN O'CONNOR ( A )

Screening of Carol at the Cannes International Film festival in Cannes, France

Gown: Ralph & Russo

There are ladies in red aplenty at Cannes, but none as show-stopping as the statuesque, graceful English model in this work of art. That structural bow is perfection. Well played.


 

EMMA STONE ( A - )

Photo call for Irrational Man at the Cannes International Film Festival

Dress:Oscar de la Renta

Shoes: Christian Louboutin

Stone scores in a frock that is even more adorable than she is. Who can resist this enchanting cocktail dress that boasts a Chantilly lace top and organza ruffle skirt? I want one in every colour.


POPPY DELEVINGNE ( B+ )

Screening of Carol at the Cannes International Film festival in Cannes

Gown: Burberry

Are those starfish, seaweed and pebbles on her whimsical plunging sheer green gown? It is a small miracle Cara's big sis doesn't look like walking flotsam and jetsam.


SONAM KAPOOR ( C )

Screening of Inside Out at the Cannes International Film Festival

Gown: Elie Saab

This can come only from a Muppet massacre. Unless these starlets want to initiate a genocide, crimes against our favourite furry friends are really ruffling my feathers


JENNIFER LOPEZ ( C- )

Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas

Gown: Charbel Zoe

It is not an awards show if JLo doesn't show up in something attention-seeking, sexy, shiny and see-through. Anyone getting deja vu yet? Exposing her entire tummy is bad enough, but belly button-baring on the red carpet is an automatic no.


DENCIA ( F )

Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas

Jumpsuit: Not known

I have no idea which hole this truly disturbing alien creature or Skittles-covered circus freak crawled out from, but if her intention was to give mankind recurring nightmares, she has succeeded.


WHO WORE IT BETTER?

Short or long? That is the question when it comes to this weirdly unappetising multi-coloured Valentino lace patchwork design. I am casting my vote for Field as her striped chevron skirt is more consistent with the top portion. Lively, in all her Oktoberfest waitress finery, just makes me feel like ordering a beer from her.

BLAKE LIVELY

Apple store Soho presents meet the filmmaker: Blake Lively in New York City, April 22

AYDA FIELD

Screening of the Sea of trees at the Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 16


MOST IMPROVED

CATE BLANCHETT

Elegant Blanchett in classy outfits - like this cream pantsuit - is getting tiresome, to be honest. But she redeemed her fashion queen status by shaking things up in a dark, edgy LBD complete with a Game Of Thrones-esque jacket. And the visible bra? Someone's living dangerously now.

Giorgio Armani 40th Anniversary Fashion Show in Milan, April 30

Pantsuit: Armani Prive


Photo call for Carol at the Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 17
Dress and jacket: Alexander McQueen

 


HONOURABLE MAN-TION

COLIN FARRELL

Photo call for the Lobster at the Cannes International Film Festival

Suit: Dolce & Gabbana

I have never understood the fuss over Farrell the smarmy bad-boy lothario, but I have to admit he cleans up very nicely in this crisp light grey three-piece. Everyone deserves a second chance, I suppose.

"Everyone was just like, 'Oh, look, there's a penis!' I didn't think about it. I'm so naive. I'm like, 'I'm wearing art!' 

- British singer FKA twigs on donning a Christopher Kane dress with a drawing of private parts on it to the recent Met Gala

 

Scared robbers flee after ex-minister whips out gun

SAFE NOW: Malaysia's former deputy education minister Hon Choon Kim with a copy of the police report he made after a robbery attempt in his Seremban house.
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