LionsXII show their intent with 3-1 win at Jalan Besar
After slow start, Fandi's men pick visitors apart and look set for better show in the MSL
(Fazly Alias 40-og, Safuwan Baharudin 51, Shahdan Sulaiman 84)
ATM FA 1
(Fazly Alias 60)
There was the thrilling Malaysian FA Cup final victory, and then a shockingly poor performance at the SEA Games.
There was also the momentous 0-0 draw away to Japan in a World Cup qualifier.
Various members of the LionsXII had plenty of commitments after their last piece of action in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) over a month ago.
There were highs and lows, and now, as they settle down for the second half of the MSL season, the future seems bright for the men in the LionsXII squad, after they resumed their campaign with a 3-1 win over ATM last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Coach Fandi Ahmad is aiming for a push up the table, and speaking after the game last night, he said: "We played in patches tonight, and you can see that fatigue was starting to take its toll on the boys.
"But the most important thing is the result. Shahdan (Sulaiman) is making his way back to fitness, and we have four new players (Shahfiq Ghani, Shakir Hamzah, Safirul Sulaiman and Al-Qaasimy Rahman from the Courts Young Lions).
"Right now, in Ramadan, rotation and squad depth are very important.
"We have five matches during this fasting month and I'm happy that most of my players are fit.
"It gives us plenty of options, what more with the experience that we already have.
" It bodes well for the remainder of our league season."
Nine players from the LionsXII played their lungs out at the Saitama Stadium five days ago against Japan, so tired legs were expected, especially after the fasting month of Ramadan started on Thursday.
The home side started slowly against strugglers ATM - the Malaysian outfit went into the game second-from-bottom - and found the breakthrough five minutes from the break from an unexpected source, as visiting defender Fazly Alias somehow turned in a Faris Ramli free-kick into his own net off his head.
Fandi made his intentions clear after the break when Zulfahmi Ariffin dropped back into the heart of defence, and star man Safuwan Baharudin was pushed forward as the LionsXII looked to increase their lead.
Soon enough, the lead was doubled.
Picking up Gabriel Quak's cross, Faris cut the ball back to Safuwan, who coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner of Syed Adney's net.
Fazly then made amends, stunning the home side with a thumping header on the hour mark.
But substitute Shahdan Sulaiman then sealed the win in the 84th minute, latching onto Safuwan's header to slot home his first goal in his second match since returning from a horrific leg break.
"Pushing Safuwan forward helped us a lot," said Fandi.
"I thought Zulfahmi was doing alright, but we needed some directness in our play when the second half came around.
"Zul was a little slow and Safuwan gave us the urgency that we needed, spraying passes and charging up, using his aerial superiority."
With a rematch on Tuesday at the Selayang Stadium, ATM coach Shahrin Abdul Majid is looking for revenge.
He said: "Losing 3-1 is an upset. We tried and tried but we couldn't get the result we wanted. We have two of our foreign players returning on Tuesday (defender Obinna Nwaneri and forward Abdulsafees Abdulsalam), we're looking for a better performance and result."
- Izwan Mahbud, Madhu Mohana, Gabriel Quak, Khairul Nizam (Shahdan Sulaiman 81), Nazrul Nazari, Izzdin Shafiq, Faris Ramli (Firdaus Kasman 78), Khairul Amri (Sahil Suhaimi 68), Safuwan Baharudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Shakir Hamzah.
- Felda 4 Selangor 4
- PDRM 3 Pahang 5
- Terengganu 0 Johor DT 1
- Sarawak 1 Perak 1