SPARE ME 'HEART ATTACK', PLEASE
Fandi wants no more late drama, insists team must put poor travellers T-Team to the sword
LIONSXII v T-TEAM
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium, Live on StarHub TV Ch 201 & Ch 255)
The opponents insist they are the underdogs in the "David versus Goliath" match.
And LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad wants his team to embrace their favourites tag and ruthlessly tear apart a beleagured T-Team side who are pointless on the road this season.
"We need to start stamping our authority and dominate matches.
"There is no room or excuses for another slip-up," the 51-year-old told The New Paper yesterday.
"After beating PKNS FC (2-1) and Perak (1-0), I want us to go for a hat-trick of victories.
"When we win games this season, it's always been a grind and an overload physically. It's not always a bad thing because we are fit and we show we are mentally strong.
"But we cannot be doing this every game, otherwise I'll have a heart attack.
"It's great for the fans when we leave it late to beat the likes of Selangor, ATM FA and Perak, but we also get criticised when we lose late, like against Kelantan."
Visitors T-Team, lying ninth in the 12-team MSL table, have been this season's Jekyll-and-Hyde team.
TITANS AND TIKUS
They live up to their Titans monicker by staying unbeaten at home in five games, but become terrified tikus (Malay for mice) away from Kuala Terengganu, losing all four matches and scoring just one goal.
Defending Malaysian Super League champions LionsXII, on the other hand, have bounced back after consecutive defeats by Kelantan and Sarawak, and could move from fifth to first for at least an hour if they win tonight.
"It's very bad," said T-Team coach Azraai Khor Abdullah of his team's away form. "We are a team with newly recruited players who are second stringers from other teams.
"Our foreign strikers (Nelson San Martin and Evaldo Goncalves) have not scored and one of my promising local strikers Azlan Ismail is injured.
"Player for player, we are no match for the LionsXII. It's David versus Goliath and it will be very tough to get something at Jalan Besar.
"All we can do is to try and defend for our lives and hope to capitalise on the counter-attack."
Safuwan Baharudin, standing in as LionsXII captain for the injured Isa Halim, who is out for three months after a heel surgery, is looking to lead his team to another much-needed clean sheet after securing only his side's second shutout this season at Perak on Tuesday.
"It's important to keep our run of victories, as well as the clean sheets going," said the 22-year-old.
At the other end of the pitch, striker Khairul Amri is desperate to end his three-match drought.
The 29-year-old said: "Trust me, there are no more easy games in the MSL.
"After losing to Kelantan here, we have to quickly make Jalan Besar a fortress again.
"Winning is the priority but, of course, the more goals we score, the better it is for our morale and goal difference.
"Personally, a run of three games without a goal is too long. I've had chances and with the quality of our team, I will get more chances. I just need to put them in.
"It's a great feeling... it gives me goosebumps to score in front of the home fans and I'm looking forward to experience that again soon."
TONIGHT'S OTHER MATCHES
l Selangor v PKNS
l Johor Darul Ta'zim v Sarawak
l Pahang v Perak
l Terengganu v Kelantan
l Sime Darby v ATM FA
Leaving team in good hands
By the time you read this, I would have gone through a successful heel surgery yesterday to repair my torn Achilles tendon.
It is disappointing to be out for two to three months and miss the rest of the league season, as I was looking forward to lead the team in an exciting year.
But it would be unfair to the team if I cannot give 100 per cent, not when even painkillers fail to stop the pain in my left ankle.
That's why I have to go fix the problem and I would like to thank every well-wisher for his support.
I would definitely use this time out to get back stronger physically and mentally.
Hopefully, I'll be back for the Malaysia Cup and fight for a place in the national team to help defend the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
While I'm gutted to be out for a while, I'm also comforted by the fact that I'm leaving the team in the good hands of my teammates.
Competition is very keen in central midfield, and I hope Zulfahmi (Arifin), Firdaus (Kasman), Raihan (Rahman) and Aqhari (Abdullah) will stand up and help us keep the Malaysian Super League title in Singapore.
We've all seen what they are capable of. The important thing now is to get them to perform consistently.
One good game is not enough and there is no room for complacency.
Raihan may be a small player, but he is a fighter who packs a punch.
He doesn't give up and he is not afraid to get stuck in. My advice to him is to play his own game and not get too emotional.
Firdaus and Zul are similar-type players who are more technical than others.
Firdaus is the more mobile midfielder, who likes to play tiki-taka short passes, while Zul has one of the best left feet in Singapore, which he uses to spread play across the pitch.
Once they fully understand their roles and then do it consistently, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Aqhari hasn't featured much this season, but he had his share of injuries and I'm sure he will get his chance if he continues to work hard and impress in training.
He has a good character and work ethic, he is very fit and likes to keep things simple.
In terms of wingers, we have Nazrul (Nazari), Gabriel (Quak), Faris (Ramli), and Hafiz (Abu Sujad) who can provide pace, trickery and tenacity.
So we have options who bring different dimensions to our game.
I know coach Fandi (Ahmad) has chopped and changed the line-up a few times this season, but sometimes, that's necessary because of the different opponents we face.
Already, our young team have scored three injury-time winners to show their fitness and mental strength.
We still have to improve on consistency and communication, but I'm sure with more games under our belts, we will be both tighter at the back and more clinical up front.
As far as the captain's armband is concerned, I'm sure Safuwan (Baharudin) is up to the task.
He may be only 22, but he is mature and he's proven that he is capable of leading by example by scoring that late winner against Perak on Tuesday.
But it's not just one player. We need leaders all over the pitch.
Another key to making ourselves title contenders is our home form.
We have dominated opponents this season and failed to win, even letting Kelantan beat us earlier this month.
But we bounced back and now have wins over PKNS FC and Perak to build on and, with the help of our 12th man, we must beat T-Team tonight.
We must make Jalan Besar a fortress again and go on another unbeaten run, which I know we are capable of.
*Isa Halim was talking to David Lee.