Fandi: Little hope for Malaysia Cup
LionsXII coach Fandi says chances of success in the storied competition very poor based on latest performance
(Fakri Saarani 29, Khairul Izuan 60)
(Faris Ramli 68)
The mere mention of the Malaysia Cup drew a loud scoff from LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad.
Granted, last night's 2-1 defeat by Kelantan at the Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium in Kota Bahru meant little to the Singapore side.
The loss meant that the LionsXII no longer had even a mathematical chance of defending their Malaysian Super League (MSL) title but, based on the performance, Fandi is under no illusions over whether his young charges can salvage anything when the Malaysia Cup rolls around in August.
"We are very far from the level required (to reach the final)," he told The New Paper.
"If we don't have the numbers for the Cup, we'll be in trouble.
"To be honest, even qualifying for the tournament (the LionsXII must finish no lower than 10th in the 12-team MSL) is not certain. Not at this rate."
The LionsXII are currently eighth with four games remaining, eight points ahead of 11th-placed ATM.
By numbers, Fandi was referring specifically to top scorer Khairul Amri and talismanic defender Safuwan Baharudin.
Both were notable absentees against Kelantan last night due to injury and suspension, respectively.
How the Singapore side missed them, especially in the first half when Fandi's fledglings looked tentative and slow against their opponents.
When Fakri Saarani gave the home side the lead after 29 minutes, there was a sense that the LionsXII could be in for a hiding.
The second half saw more urgency from the visitors but, before they could get their engines truly warmed up, Kelantan had gone 2-0 up through the irrepressible Khairul Izuan.
Faris Ramli drilled home a reply with 22 minutes remaining, but it proved a mere consolation in the end.
Late in the game, striker Sufian Anuar, who worked tirelessly as a lone striker, had a glorious chance to square the ball for Gabriel Quak in the box, but he chose to shoot and it was a tame effort.
That miss had Fandi seething.
"I'm so disappointed; we could've snatched a point," he said.
"But we didn't because of poor finishing and judgment. A clear, open chance and we blew it - what to do?
DESERVED TO LOSE
"Even Shahfiq Ghani should have scored earlier. He shot twice, both times straight at the goalkeeper.
"The players fought really hard in the second half but, in a way, they deserved this defeat because of their first-half performance."
Faris revealed that the players got a earful from their coach in the dressing room at the break.
"He was angry at our performance, and that we didn't take our chances," the winger said.
"There's a lot of improvement to be had before we can really compete in the Malaysia Cup.
"Hopefully, we'll get there."
Fandi admitted that he will find it difficult to blood his reserves for the remaining four games.
The Lions play Sarawak at home on Saturday, before travelling to Shah Alam next Tuesday to face bottom-side PKNS.
Said Fandi: "Many people are saying to give the reserves a chance, but how to, when they start games the way they did here?
"We need players with heart and soul, who can battle for 90 minutes. Nothing less than that."
Nobody gave us a chance to win in Kelantan but, I’ll tell you, if we had a real goalscorer, we would’ve scored more than once.
— LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad last night, slamming his side for their profligacy in front of goal
- SHOTS ON TARGET: Kelantan 5, LionsXII 6
- SHOTS OFF TARGET: Kelantan 4, LionsXII 2
- CORNERS: Kelantan 2, LionsXII 2
- YELLOW CARDS: Kelantan: 4
LionsXII: 4 (Firdaus Kasman 23, Raihan Rahman 38, Afiq Yunos 86, Sufian Anuar 88)
- REFEREE: Lismotia Mohem Mohd Tisan
- CROWD: 12,000
- MATCH RATING: 6/10
- KELANTAN: Khairul Fahmi, Farisham Ismail, Wan Zaharulnizam (Tg Hasbulah 69), Francis Doe, Fakri Saarani (Badri Radzi 77), Mohd Shawky, Nazri Ahmad, Khairul Izuan, Hussein Alaa (Prince Tagoe 84), Brendan Gan, Fitri Omar.
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 7, Faritz Hameed 5, Afiq Yunos 6, Baihakki Khaizan 6, Madhu Mohana 6.5, Raihan Rahman 6, Faris Ramli 6, Firdaus Kasman 5.5 (Aqhari Abdullah 63), Gabriel Quak 7, Shahfiq Ghani 5 (Nazrul Nazari 57), Sufian Anuar 6.
- TNP Man of the Match: Khairul Izuan (Kelantan)
- JDT 3 Sime Darby 0
- Terengganu 1 Selangor 4
- PKNS 1 Perak 3
- Sarawak 2 T-Team 0
- ATM 2 Pahang 2