Fandi livid with sleepwalking LionsXII

Shahdan Sulaiman (right) celebrating his goal against Kedah with Faris Ramli. But there was little else to be joyful about in their opening match of the Malaysia Cup tournament.
Shahdan Sulaiman (right) celebrating his goal against Kedah with Faris Ramli. But there was little else to be joyful about in their opening match of the Malaysia Cup tournament.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

MALAYSIA CUP

LionsXII 1

Kedah 1

For the fourth straight season, the LionsXII have failed to start their Malaysia Cup campaign with a momentum-building victory in the group stages.

Although the 15-match unbeaten home record this year at the Jalan Besar Stadium is intact, coach Fandi Ahmad was upset that his men had sleepwalked through the disappointing 1-1 draw in their Group A opener before 5,266 fans.

Twelve months ago, his team had opened with a goalless draw at home to Felda United. That set the tone for the subsequent games as they finished third in their group and did not advance to the knock-out stages.

Last night, Fandi, 53, called it one of the worst LionsXII games under his charge. "I'm very disappointed. Some players went missing, especially in midfield. There was loose marking, some were just wandering around the field," he said.

"Four to five players were not in the game at all. We let Kedah control the midfield. We didn't do a good job closing down the space, we let them take shots.

"The players must realise that the Malaysia Cup is a very tough competition... . Every game is a battle."

Malaysia Premier League champions Kedah took a shock lead in the 17th minute through Brazilian midfielder Sandro Mendonca's 25-metre shot that beat Singapore international goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.

The riposte came within 60 seconds. Winger Christopher van Huizen won possession before cutting the ball back for playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman to equalise via a deflection off Kedah defender Osman Yusoff.

Having claimed the Malaysian FA Cup in May, the LionsXII are chasing a Cup double but were missing the presence of the suspended Khairul Amri up front as they struggled to break down the opponents.

In Amri's place was utility player Safuwan Baharudin, who said: "I felt a sharp pain in my chest during the match. It wasn't the usual kind of pain. I don't know whether it was the haze that caused it."

The match took place despite the PSI reading hitting 133 - in the unhealthy range - before kick-off.

Fandi rolled his last dice against Kedah by throwing on reserve forwards Khairul Nizam and Sahil Suhaimi after the interval.

A misplaced header by Nizam in the 67th minute was the best the home side could muster, even as Kedah substitute Rizal Ghazali was sent off for two bookable offences.

The LionsXII continue their Malaysia Cup quest at Johor Darul Takzim II on Saturday.

Fandi said: "Our next game against Johor won't be easy. There are no two ways about it, we have to win one or two matches away in the Malaysia Cup."

  • Additional reporting by Alvin Chia
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'Fandi livid with sleepwalking LionsXII'. Print Edition | Subscribe