Football: LionsXII won't bow out tamely

The LionsXII training at ITE Ang Mo Kio, on Nov 26, 2015.
The LionsXII training at ITE Ang Mo Kio, on Nov 26, 2015.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Cup q-final rebound against Pahang will soften blow of exit from Malaysian football

In the immediate aftermath of their shock axing from Malaysian football, the mood in the LionsXII camp was one of disbelief - and also anger.

But even as they face the daunting task of overturning a 4-1 deficit against Pahang, Fandi Ahmad's men want to harness all that disappointment and turn it into victory in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

Said centre-back Madhu Mohana, who has been with the team since the LionsXII joined the Malaysian domestic scene in 2012: "We want to make them regret their decision.

"We don't want to go into the match with the mindset that it's going to be our last game.

"We are still confident that we can go through (to the semi-finals) - and we have got a good record at home too.

A POINT TO PROVE

We really want to get a win and repay our fans with a good performance...

So I hope that we can prove to the Malaysians that it's a loss for them.

MADHU MOHANA, LionsXII defender

"We really want to get a win and repay our fans with a good performance. I've enjoyed these four years playing with the team, and it's a sad thing that everyone will be dispersed after this year. So I hope that we can prove to the Malaysians that it's a loss for them."

In Tuesday's first leg in Kuantan, a rampant Pahang ran riot at the Darul Makmur Stadium with strikers Dickson Nwakaeme and Matias Conti causing the visitors all kinds of problems.

But the LionsXII enjoy an excellent home record at the Jalan Besar Stadium, remaining unbeaten in 18 matches so far.

That resolve to claw back was typified by striker Khairul Nizam, who is fit for selection tonight after recovering from a knee injury.

"Even if I break my leg for the team, I don't care, I will give my all for the team and for the fans," he said defiantly.

"It's going to be quite emotional for me and I hope we can finish well. Even if we lose, we just want to give our best."

Just as determined is coach Fandi, who insists that his team can pull off the great escape to upset Pahang, winners of the Malaysia Cup in the last two years.

He said: "Whatever the outcome, we need to win. And, hopefully, turn the tables.

"If it's 4-0 (in the first leg), then we can say that we can pack up.

"But we're thinking of winning this game, our main target is to not surrender."

On Tuesday, midfielder Safuwan Baharudin headed home a late consolation goal against Pahang to give the LionsXII a glimmer of hope with a precious away goal.

Fandi said: "I believe that one (away) goal is going to be important to us. You can see by their (the Pahang players') faces at the end, they were shouting at each other because of that one goal."

While Fandi gave away little on his tactics against Pahang, he did say that his players will storm forward early and press for goals.

He said: "It's not easy to get three goals, we need to chase for every ball, attack and defend as a team.

"It's going to be a team effort, we will fight to the end.

"Be positive, fight and fight."

LIONSXII V PAHANG
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'LIONSXII WON'T BOW OUT TAMELY'. Print Edition | Subscribe