Make home advantage count, says Hariss
Singapore star and LionsXII old boy hopes players have learnt lesson from pain of 2012
Three seasons ago, he was part of a LionsXII team who were seconds from a place in the Malaysia Cup final, only to have it snatched away deep into injury time.
That defeat on penalties by ATM FA still rankles Hariss Harun and the Singapore midfield star, who now plies his trade across the Causeway with Johor Darul Ta'zim, hopes his former teammates have learnt their lesson as they prepare to take on Terengganu in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Hariss' LionsXII side drew 1-1 with ATM at Jalan Besar and then again in the return leg at Selayang after a 97th-minute goal by ATM striker Marlon James, before being knocked out on spot-kicks.
The 24-year-old said the outcome would have been very different, if they got the job done at home.
"Quite a number of the boys from that team are in the current side so, hopefully, they can prepare for this semi-final against Terengganu better," said Hariss, yesterday.
"In 2012, we didn't get a good result at home and we knew it'd be very tough to get the result we needed in Selayang.
"The Malaysian sides know the LionsXII are very strong at Jalan Besar, where we have the advantage of the artificial pitch and the fans, and the team need to make the most of this.
"Also, if the team are able to keep a clean sheet, it will be a huge advantage."
Former LionsXII skipper Shahril Ishak, who was also a part of the 2012 team, echoed Hariss' point.
Perhaps predictably, from a player who top-scored for the LionsXII in two consecutive seasons, the 31-year-old striker said attack was the way to go.
"It's important the team get goals," said the national captain.
"One is good, but they should try to take a two or even three-goal advantage into the second leg.
"It's going to be an uphill task to try and stop Terengganu from scoring at their place, seeing as how they have so many great attacking players."
In addition to last season's Malaysian Super League (MSL) top scorer Paulo Rangel, the Turtles recently signed talented Malaysian forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Issey Nakajima Farran, the Japanese-Canadian attacker who once starred in the S.League for Albirex Niigata.
At least for tonight's match, the Turtles will be missing the suspended Rangel.
Hariss believes vociferous home support can go some way in helping Fandi Ahmad's men vanquish Terengganu.
While the LionsXII's two home games in the FA Cup, against lower-tier sides KL SPA Putrajaya and Johor Darul Ta'zim II, attracted an average 3,800 fans each - or about half the capacity of Jalan Besar - the stakes are much higher now and a much bigger crowd is expected tonight.
Said Hariss: "The fans will definitely come out and support the boys, seeing how they are just one step away from the final. And it'll be a big boost for them.
"I remember in the 2012 Malaysia Cup quarter-finals, we learnt how much home support can really carry the team.
"We lost the first leg 2-1 away in Pahang, but we beat them 2-0 at home in the return leg, in front of a full-house crowd.
"So, like I said before, the first leg is key.
"If the boys can get a good result at home, that spot in the final is theirs."