Fandi rues 'shocking' defending as LionsXII crash 4-0 to Selangor
Fandi rues 'shocking' defending as LionsXII's winless run continues
(Afiq Azmi 7, 12, 16, Guilherme de Paula 79)
It had looked promising at first.
A 5-3 home victory over PDRM on the opening day of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) season seemed to suggest that the LionsXII were ready to put their dismal 2014 campaign behind them.
Two months on, and the Singapore side are still waiting for their next chance to raise their hands in triumph at the final whistle.
It looked promising last night at the Shah Alam Stadium as well.
The opening five minutes saw the LionsXII put Selangor under pressure, and striker Khairul Amri came close to scoring with a flash header from inside the box.
But, just like the past two months, it all went pear-shaped for Fandi Ahmad's side after that.
A hat-trick by Selangor's Afiq Azmi inside 10 minutes early in the first half helped the MSL leaders to a 4-0 victory over the LionsXII.
Brazil forward Guilherme de Paula added salt into the LionsXII's wounds with the home side's fourth goal in the 79th minute.
Last night's defeat means the Singapore side remain ninth in the standings with just seven points from eight games.
Coach Fandi Ahmad didn't hide his displeasure after the game.
"It was one of those days where the team just collapsed," he told The New Paper.
"The first goal stunned us, and it was punishing for us to concede another two so quickly.
"It was shocking defending from my boys. Usually, we're so tight at the back."
It was a harsh result for Fandi, who, despite the loss of defender Safuwan Baharudin at the start of the season, has managed to improve the team from last season.
From last night's heavy defeat, however, he might have to ponder over these points:
1 Zulfahmi in central defence
Safuwan's departure to the A-League has exposed the lack of depth in the LionsXII's defensive ranks.
With Afiq Yunos sidelined by a long-term injury, Fandi has had to call on midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin to partner Madhu Mohana in central defence.
The move may have its merits during home matches, as Zulfahmi - a cultured left-footer - can start moves from deep.
But, during away matches, his defensive frailties are easily exposed, as it was in the 12th minute last night, when he lost the ball in his own area for Afiq to score Selangor's second goal.
2 Time for a change in formation
Do the LionsXII really have to play a 4-2-3-1? What happens when there aren't the right players for the approach?
For the LionsXII, the lack of a playmaker is the most telling.
Zulfahmi took on that role last season to little effect, while natural attacking midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman is still recovering from a broken ankle.
Fandi fielded three defensive players in central midfield last night, all of whom provided little support for Amri.
When a second striker, Sufian Anuar, came on for defensive midfielder Raihan Rahman after 28 minutes, the LionsXII at least had numbers going forward and managed shots on goal.
3 Confidence dip
One win in eight games can't be good for team morale, and a dip in confidence is Fandi's biggest concern now.
The FA Cup has been a good respite for the LionsXII and, with the second leg of the quarter-final tie against Johor Darul Ta'zim II looming on Wednesday, the coach has the crucial task of keeping his players focused on a place in the last four.
Fandi said. "The coaches and I have to try and motivate the boys again, maybe even make a few changes. I don't know, but our options are thin."
"Those first 15 minutes were a disaster. We just collapsed, and couldn’t recover from it. Sorry to our fans, especially those who travelled here. I just hope we get a win in the league soon, otherwise it will really affect team morale."
- LionsXII winger Gabriel Quak
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER RESULTS
- Johor Darul Ta'zim 3 Kelantan 1
- Terengganu 1 Felda 3
- Sarawak 1 ATM 1
- Sime Darby 1 PDRM 4
TEAMS & PLAYERS' RATINGS
- SELANGOR: Mohd Syammim, Robert Cornthwaite, Andik Vermansyah (Fitri Shazwan 81), Leandro dos Santos, Nazmi Faiz, Ahmad Hazwan, Guilherme, Raimi Mohd Nor (Azmi Muslim 73), Rezal Fahmi, Mohd Azrif, Afiq Azmi (Abdul Hadi Yahya 84)
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6, Nazrul Nazari 5, Madhu Mohana 6, Zulfahmi Arifin 5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6, Izzdin Shafiq 6, Firdaus Kasman 5, Raihan Rahman (Sufian Anuar 28, 5), Gabriel Quak 6 (Christopher van Huizen 79), Faris Ramli 5.5, Khairul Amri 6 (Sahil Suhaimi 60, 5.5)
- Attendance: 20,000
- Referee: Nazmi Nasaruddin
- Match rating: 6/10
- TNP Man of the Match: Afiq Azmi (Selangor)
BLOW BY BLOW
Khairul Amri flicks on Faris Ramli's free-kick, but Selangor goalkeeper Syammim Othman keeps it out. A brief, bright start for the LionsXII.
GOAL! Selangor 1-0! The LionsXII defence fails to deal with a free-kick, as Afiq Azmi smashes the ball past Izwan Mahbud.
GOAL! Selangor 2-0! Afiq at the double. He nicks the ball off a sluggish Zulfahmi Arifin inside the area and coolly slots it past Izwan.
GOAL! 3-0! Guillherme de Paula squares the ball for Afiq, after dribbling around the LionsXII defence, and the latter completes his hat-trick.
LionsXII substitute Sahil Suhaimi forces Syammim into making a save, after curling in an effort from 18 metres out.
GOAL! 4-0! Andik Vermansyah sneaks in behind Madhu Mohana to rob him of the ball, and Guillherme shoots past Izwan to put the icing on the cake.