FANDI: WE MUST BE TENACIOUS IN ATTACK, TIGHT IN DEFENCE
LESSON: Fandi warning the LionsXII that JDT II will have nothing to lose. - TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
The LionsXII have scored eight goals and kept two clean sheets in the first two rounds, and they are bent on keeping their good run going in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final against Johor Darul Ta'zim II tonight.
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad told The New Paper his team are going all out to get a healthy advantage to bring to Pasir Gudang for the second leg on April 22, as he welcomes top striker Khairul Amri back into the fold.
He explained: "I rested Amri against Pahang because he was recovering from a groin strain and we have to take into account the fact we are playing six matches in 22 days.
"Amri can create and he is clinical, and we also have (Khairul Nizam) back and it was good to see him score against Pahang and last 90 minutes. We also value his physical presence up front.
"The FA Cup is a realistic opportunity for silverware, but we have to take it one match at a time.
"We beat Melayu Kedah and KL SPA 4-0 and we hope we can continue our free-scoring ways in the FA Cup, which will be important for the second leg.
"But we will be aware of the threat JDT II pose from set-pieces with Baihakki (Khaizan) in their team and the intelligent attacking plays initiated by Shahril (Ishak)."
Like Amri, Faris Ramli has scored three goals for the LionsXII this season, and looks like a player transformed under Fandi's tutelage.
The 22-year-old scored eight goals for the LionsXII in a breakthrough season last term, and he told TNP: "Coach Fandi has had a great impact on changing my perspective from one who is happy to assist to one who is hungry to get on the scoresheet.
"My target was eight goals last season and I met that. This season will be to hit double digits, and I also want to open my FA Cup account for this year.
"Most importantly, I want to help the team win whenever I score, because my goals would be meaningless if we lose.
"With the exception of long-term injuries to Shahdan (Sulaiman) and Afiq (Yunos), we are all fighting fit under our fitness coach Sasha (Aleksandar Bozenko) and we want to put on a good performance for our fans."
With the competition whittled down to the last eight, Amri feels that every game is now "like a final", especially against lower-league teams like JDT II.
Fit, rested and eager to get back to action, he said: "We are a Malaysian Super League team, we are playing on home ground, we have to win.
"JDT II will be dangerous because they will play like a team with nothing to lose.
"We have to stay focused at both ends of the pitch."
Indeed, Fandi also stressed the importance of preventing any away goals and keeping a clean sheet at home.
He praised goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud for his sterling performances between the posts recently, and backed him to continue his fine form.
"He has done very well, and we need him to continue to take responsibility to command the defence," said Fandi.