Engine room fight heats up
COMBATIVE: LionsXII midfielder Firdaus Kasman (far right) challenging PDRM's Fauzi Majid. - TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Izzdin Shafiq left the LionsXII at the end of 2013 and returned to Fandi Ahmad's side after a year with S.League team Home United.
After producing a swashbuckling display in midfield in the season-opening 5-3 win over PDRM on Saturday, he looks as if he might have already cemented his spot in the engine room, over 2013 first-choice midfield man and national player Zulfahmi Arifin.
"He provides the kind of diagonal balls that (former Singapore international) Rafi Ali could do, he isn't afraid to shoot and I have to say he did really well," said LionsXII assistant coach Nazri Nasir, of the No. 13, who scored the third of five goals on Saturday with an exquisite chip.
"This gives us very healthy competition in the midfield."
With Firdaus Kasman and Isa Halim also putting in good shifts, Fandi and Nazri have a lot to think about before the trip to Kota Baru to take on Kelantan on Saturday.
Central defender Afiq Yunos also had to be withdrawn in the 73rd minute against PDRM due to injury and Fandi said: "I'm concerned about Afiq, and Isa still has problems with his heel and knee, so he might not be able to play so often on (the harder) astro turf at Jalan Besar.
"Squad rotation will be important this year.
"We seem okay in midfield and attack but a bit thin in defence, and that is my main concern."
Fandi has experimented shifting Zulfahmi from midfield to defence during pre-season in the Maldives and believes the left-footed 23-year-old can do a job in the backline.
"We have tried playing Zul at centre back and he's shown that he's not bad there - that is also an option for us," said Fandi.
All this leads to a bit of a selection headache.
Nazri said: "We know what Isa can do; Firdaus has shown that he will fight to the end, and Izzdin has done very well.
"Before Saturday's game, I told the players that they can't make finding the first 11 an easy job for us, and it looks like they are giving us a headache - a welcome one."
What's next for LionsXII
(Sat, 8.45pm, Kota Baru)
(Feb 21, 8.45pm, Ipoh)
v MElAYU KEDAH*
(Feb 28, 4.45pm, Alor Setar)
v FELDA UNITED
(March 7, 8.45pm, Selayang)
(March 14, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar)
(April 4, 8.45pm, Kuantan)
*Malaysia FA Cup