Fandi issues wake-up call to sloppy LionsXII despite win
Despite win, LionsXII coach says team did not perform to his expectations
QUARTER-FINAL, FIRST LEG
(Khairul Amri 4, Christopher van Huizen 90+2)
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II 0
His team kept a clean sheet and took a two-goal lead in the first leg, but Fandi Ahmad was not over the moon.
The LionsXII coach was unhappy with the sloppy way his charges played after Khairul Amri had given them an early 1-0 lead against Malaysian Premier League side Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDT II)in their Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final, first-leg clash yesterday.
"This was our worst game at Jalan Besar," lamented Fandi, 52, after the match.
"You could see how many times we misplaced our passes, and plenty of good moves broke down because of bad distribution. We almost allowed them to come back right after Amri scored.
"Raihan (Rahman) came on and did a good job in holding the midfield. That was a positive.
"To say that I'm not happy wouldn't be right, but we didn't perform up to my expectations. I wanted us to win by three or four goals, but that didn't happen.
"The important thing was that the defence held out just about enough, and didn't allow JDT II to score the away goal they needed which would have complicated things for us."
The LionsXII drew first blood through a cool finish from striker Amri in the fourth minute.
A cross from right back Faritz Hameed was flicked on by Madhu Mohana and, with the ball in the air, Amri took it down in a swift turn and lashed past the JDT II goalkeeper.
The home side almost doubled their lead in the 18th minute, when Faris Ramli ran past two defenders on the left before laying the ball off to Izzdin Shafiq, whose shot sailed high and wide.
But the LionsXII gave away too much space in midfield, allowing Shahril Ishak and company to come close on a few occasions.
It took some last-ditch defending from Zulfahmi Arifin and Madhu to help the LionsXII preserve their lead.
Fandi had to reshuffle his team when he sent on Sahil Suhaimi in the 40th minute for Amri, who went off with a groin injury that will likely keep him out for a week.
The away team poured forward in search of the equaliser, but the LionsXII defence held on before substitute Christopher van Huizen sealed the win with a brilliant effort in the second minute of stoppage time.
For former LionsXII stars Shahril and Baihakki Khaizan, it was a disappointing return to their former stomping ground.
When the stadium announcer blared out their names before the start of the game, Jalan Besar erupted into a roar to welcome for the former heroes.
But both failed to finish the game.
Already booked for a silly foul on Sahil, Baihakki was sent off in the 81st minute after receiving a second yellow card for a late challenge on Raihan.
Shahril, on the other hand, was substituted before the end of the match.
Baihakki's sending-off leaves JDT II coach Goran Paulic with a defensive headache for the second leg at Pasir Gudang Stadium on April 22.
"Other than Moya (Izuan Jarudin), I don't know who else to pick," said the Croat.
"Apart from him, Kamarul Afiq has three yellow cards already, and he'll get suspended if he gets a fourth.
"So that leaves a hole for us. I'm very disappointed but, congratulations to the LionsXII, they played a good match."
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Madhu Mohana, Gabriel Quak, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Faritz Hameed, Khairul Nizam, Izzdin Shafiq, Faris Ramli (Christopher van Huizen 72), Khairul Amri (Sahil Suhaimi 40), Zulfahmi Ariffin, Firdaus Kasman (Raihan Rahman 52)
- JDT II: Anis Faron, Che Rashid Che Halim, Fazly Mazlan, Izuan Jarudin (Ramzi Haziq 65), Baihakki Khaizan, Nicolas Delmonte, Zaquan Adha (Akmal Ishak 76), Leandro Velazquez, Akram Mahinan, Shahril Ishak (Alif Yusof 90+1), Syafuan Riduwan
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Faris Ramli
VAN HUIZEN ON THE RISE
"He has very good qualities, fighting spirit, and an exquisite touch, and he showed it with that goal." — Fandi Ahmad (above) on Christopher van Huizen (below)
Christopher van Huizen's rise to fame has nothing short of meteoric.
And yesterday, in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final against Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDT II) at the Jalan Besar Stadium, he made another significant leap in his football career.
Coming on for the LionsXII as a 72nd-minute substitute for Faris Ramli, he picked up the ball from 20 metres out, cut in from the right flank and curled the ball past JDT II goalkeeper Anis Faron with his favoured left foot in the dying seconds of the game.
It was his first goal in a LionsXII shirt, and it completed a 2-0 win for Fandi Ahmad's side.
A jubilant van Huizen said: "When I came on, coach told me that he wanted a 3-0 win.
"So, in my head, I was just telling myself 'get a goal, get a goal'.
"I was blocked by the defender when I cut in, so I just wanted to curl it in like how I always do in practice.
"I always work really hard in training, and it's good to see it pay off by getting more playing opportunities."
The 22-year-old first garnered attention in 2013 when he made the final cut for Channel 5's football reality show, First XI.
He was picked up by Tampines Rovers a year later and played in the club's developmental side in the Prime League before being fast-tracked into the first team, making a handful of appearances for the S.League powerhouses.
The winger made such an impression that Fandi added him to the LionsXII roster this year.
Said Fandi: "Christopher is a fantastic player. From the Prime League to the Malaysia Super League, that's a big jump.
"But he has very good qualities, fighting spirit, and an exquisite touch, and he showed it with that goal."
The team's elder statesman, striker Khairul Amri, said van Huizen has a lot more to offer, adding: "When I first saw him in training, I knew this kid had bags of potential.
"But he needs more time to ease into the team and develop himself as a player. In a few years, I hope he'll be a regular, either in the LionsXII or for the national team."