Football

ATM banking on a win

For almost two months, this ATM looked like it was out of service.

B Sathianathan's men played 10 matches without a single victory and picked up just three points as they tumbled to the bottom of the Malaysian Super League table.

Only a come-from-behind 2-1 win over fellow stragglers T-Team last weekend lifted the beleaguered Gladiators out of the cellar.

"T-Team are a weak team, and even then we struggled," said Sathianathan, ahead of tonight's clash against the LionsXII at Jalan Besar, a match he described as a "must-win".

"The team are down. We have had too many injuries to our key players. Our national defenders Taj (Amirizwan Tajuddin) and K Reuben are out for six months because of knee-ligament injuries. 

"Our captain Hai-O (forward Hairuddin Omar) is injured and we've released our Australian defender Spase Dilevski.

"The biggest loss was our star striker Marlon James. He could win a match on his own but he was struggling with a knee injury, so unfortunately we had to let him go.

"With all these injuries, we have had to fill our team with players from our youth team, players whose names you won't even know how to spell. 

"We also brought in a South Korean defender Park Yong Ho and a striker Fabrice Noel from Haiti and they are still settling down."

Pre-season, both the LionsXII and ATM FA were expected to do well, but they now find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table, and Sathianathan felt there were mitigating factors for both teams.

INJURIES

"We don't have a stable squad with all the injuries, while the LionsXII lost three key players Baihakki (Khaizan), Hariss (Harun) and Shahril (Ishak), so the results are not unexpected," he said.

Tonight, the LionsXII will do well to keep an eye on 28-year-old Noel, who grabbed both goals against T-Team.

With Jalan Besar no longer the fortress it was after being breached four times this year, and his team in such a precarious position, Sathianathan admitted to The New Paper he has to go for broke.

"This really is do or die. We have to win. You know how in our last three trips our goal was just to get a draw. Now a draw is no use and we have to go out and get a win," said the 56-year-old former Malaysia national coach.

"If we don't start picking up points now with six games left, we could get relegated.

"I'm used to pressure, football is pressure. But I'm feeling sad because this is the first time I'm in this dire situation."

The statistics don't look good for ATM FA, as they have never beaten the LionsXII at Jalan Besar. 

They got a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup in 2012 and lost 3-1 in the league last year, with both their goals scored by the now-retired James, before a 1-0 reverse in another Malaysia Cup match.

Sathianathan is also wary about the "wounded LionsXII", after the hosts suffered a 3-2 home defeat by Johor Darul Ta'zim after leading 2-0.

He said: "I was hoping the LionsXII would beat JDT so they could be more relaxed against us, but now I don't think so. 

"I know the Singaporeans have pride. After their last two defeats, we could be the victims of their backlash.

"They were unlucky with the penalty decisions against Sime Darby and JDT, and the only thing I hope now is their bad luck continues."


"This really is do or die. We have to win. You know how in our last three trips our goal was just to get a draw. Now a draw is no use and we have to go out and get a win. "
- ATM coach B Sathianathan (picture above) - TNP FILE PHOTO