Football: Fandi wary of familiar foes in Cup

Terengganu's Issey Farran Nakajima scoring against LionsXIl's Izwan Mahbud. The Malaysian side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Fandi Ahmad's men this season and will be out for revenge.
Terengganu's Issey Farran Nakajima scoring against LionsXIl's Izwan Mahbud. The Malaysian side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Fandi Ahmad's men this season and will be out for revenge.PHOTO: THE STAR

It is the one trophy that has eluded the LionsXII since their formation in 2012 and, after a relatively favourable draw, the LionsXII could be well on their way to capturing the Malaysia Cup - the third and final marquee event of Malaysian football's domestic calendar.

In yesterday's draw in Petaling Jaya, the LionsXII were placed in Group A alongside Terengganu, Johor Darul Takzim II (JDT II) and Kedah - all teams they have beaten in Cup competitions.

JDT II and Kedah are from the second-tier Malaysia Premier League (MPL) while Terengganu finished fourth in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), three places above the Singapore outfit.

Fandi Ahmad's charges faced JDT II in the quarter-finals of the Malaysian FA Cup, winning 4-0 on aggregate while they also knocked out Terengganu on away goals in the semi-finals after the tie ended 4-4.

The last time the LionsXII faced Kedah was in the 2013 Malaysia Cup when the Singapore side won 3-1 in the group stages.

  • 2015 MALAYSIA CUP DRAW

  • GROUP A

    Terengganu

    LionsXII

    Kedah

    Johor Darul Takzim II

    GROUP B

    Johor Darul Takzim

    Perak

    Sarawak

    ATM FA

    GROUP C

    Selangor

    Felda United

    Kelantan

    T-Team

    GROUP D

    Pahang

    PDRM

    Penang

    PKNS

However, Fandi's men have a mixed bag of results against Terengganu in the league, drawing 1-1 at home and losing 2-4 away.

And while the draw might appear benign to some, the LionsXII coach is taking nothing for granted.

"There are many strong teams in this competition and we are in quite a tough group because Kedah just won the MPL and they will be very eager to perform in the Malaysia Cup," said Fandi yesterday.

"There is also Terengganu, whom we have already faced five times this season, and they are a very complete team. Playing against them is going to be very difficult.

"We still also have to face JDT II, so we will just take it on a game-by-game basis.

"We must take this seriously and use the FA Cup victory as motivation to do well. It won't be easy, so I really hope the fans will come out in full force to support us at Jalan Besar Stadium."

Two years ago, the LionsXII won the MSL. In May this year, they returned with the Malaysian FA Cup after a 3-1 win over Kelantan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

But things have not gone the LionsXII's way in the Malaysia Cup.

Last year, they bowed out early after finishing third in a group that included Pahang, JDT II and Felda United. In 2013, they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by ATM FA after a 2-4 loss on aggregate.

The furthest they have reached was the semi-finals in their first season in the competition, when they lost 4-5 to ATM in a penalty shootout in 2012.

Since the competition started in 1921, Singapore has won the Malaysia Cup 24 times. The last title came in 1994, when the Lions beat Pahang 4-0 in the final, with Australian Abbas Saad scoring a hat-trick and Fandi rounding off the score.

Only Selangor have a better record, winning the Cup 32 times.

Deepanraj Ganesan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Fandi wary of familiar foes in Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe