Khairul's hungry for goals
Poor Khairul Nizam.
It seems that even when his troublesome left knee doesn't give him any problems, the LionsXII striker is never 100 per cent free from injury.
As he shook hands with this reporter yesterday, he winced in agony.
"My hands, lah," he said with a sheepish smile, before explaining how he grazed his hands after running into the advertising hoardings in the match against Johor Darul Ta'zim II on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old (above) was a surprise starter against JDT II, and needed just 36 seconds to set up teammate Hafiz Abu Sujad for the opening goal in the 2-2 draw in the Malaysia Cup Group A tie.
Short of match fitness, he was substituted at half-time, but Khairul is hungry for more action in tonight's win-or-bust match against Pahang at the Darulmakmur Stadium in Kuantan.
Anything less than a win over the Malaysia FA Cup holders, will see the LionsXII crash out.
"It feels great to be back and I'm so happy coach Fandi had the confidence and trust in me to field me from the start (against JDT II), after being out for so long," said Nizam.
"I'm happy I got to help Hafiz score, but I badly want a goal for myself.
"Since I started training again, I've just been trying to think positively and tell myself I want to show what I can do - to the national coach, to everyone."
A series of injuries to his left knee has seen him miss about 18 months of football in the last two years, but he is hoping that his injury jinx is now behind him. He is not alone.
Said LionsXII assistant coach Nazri Nasir: "When Fandi and I watched him against JDT II, we told ourselves, 'That's what we have missed going forward all season'.
"We didn't have a striker up front who can hold the ball, and bring the other players into the game.
"Our other strikers have been working very hard, too, but they prefer the ball at their feet and facing goal. Nizam can play with his back to goal."
Nazri added: "He did well against JDT II, but there's still room for improvement, and we want him to be more of a goal threat.
"He's still young and, with the guidance of a former top striker like Fandi, I hope he can take his game to the next level. But we don't want to expect too much from him after just one game."
Nizam, though, is anxious to lead the line and make up for lost time.
"It feels good to be needed by the team," he said. "This Pahang game is a really important one and I would love to help the team by getting on the scoresheet."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ