Hitman role for LionsXII's Khairul Nizam against Johor Darul Takzim II?

Khairul Nizam during LionsXII training at ITE College Central yesterday. He will vie with Sahil Suhaimi and Sufian Anuar to take over scoring duties from Khairul Amri, who pulled a hamstring on international duty.
Khairul Nizam during LionsXII training at ITE College Central yesterday. He will vie with Sahil Suhaimi and Sufian Anuar to take over scoring duties from Khairul Amri, who pulled a hamstring on international duty.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Fandi guarded on replacement for Amri, with a win over Johor DT II vital to enter Cup q-finals

A win tomorrow against Johor Darul Takzim II at the Jalan Besar Stadium will put the LionsXII on 10 points, a tally which coach Fandi Ahmad believes would be enough to secure passage to the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

While beating a side playing in the second tier of Malaysian football is not a tall order, their task will be harder without nine-goal striker Khairul Amri. He is out for four weeks after injuring his hamstring on national duty.

Yesterday, the team re-grouped for the first time since the international break at ITE College Central, and Fandi wasted no time in experimenting with the players who could possibly replace Amri - forwards Khairul Nizam, Sahil Suhaimi and Sufian Anuar.

The coach played three two-sided games, each lasting 10 minutes, testing the various permutations to gauge who gelled best.

Keeping his cards close to his chest, Fandi said: "Each player has his own qualities. I was trying to see which partnership worked best, and tomorrow I will decide who (should) start."

The tactician did drop a few hints, saying: "We want someone who can hold up the play, not lose the ball, and can keep the defenders busy."

That seems to indicate Amri's half-brother Nizam is Fandi's preferred choice.

The lanky forward is enjoying his finest season with the team.

He has five goals so far, including a sensational scissors-kick goal against Selangor.

The injury-prone striker appeared to hurt his right knee in yesterday's session but seemed to run it off.

Fandi also called on the rest of the team's attackers, including Sahil and winger Faris Ramli, to step up and share the goal-scoring burden in Amri's absence.

Sahil has fired in six goals so far, two of which came in the Malaysia FA Cup final win over Kelantan.

Faris is the team's top scorer in the Malaysia Super League with seven goals, and opened the scoring in Singapore's 2-1 win over Cambodia on Tuesday.

There is also midfielder Safuwan Baharudin who scored both goals in the reverse fixture which the LionsXII won 2-1.

Said Fandi: "Definitely, the attackers should share the workload. Hopefully, Faris can come back into form. He was quiet in the last 4-5 games but he did very well against Cambodia. I was happy to see that."

While the coach was non-committal with his first-choice striker, he was clear about the difficulty of the task at hand.

JDT II are no pushovers, boasting Singapore internationals Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan in their ranks. They also beat group leaders Kedah 3-2 last month.

They are currently third in the group, three points behind the LionsXII with a game in hand.

Kedah lead Group A on goal difference while Terengganu are bottom with one point.

Fandi said: "It's do-or-die for us. JDT II will be very motivated after the Kedah win.

"They know they have a chance. It's going to be a hard game.

"We must have a good game plan, and try to get the win, because our last match is away."


LIONSXII V JOHOR DT II

StarHub Ch112/Ch205 and 76.25MHz, tomorrow, 7.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'HITMAN ROLE FOR NIZAM?'. Print Edition | Subscribe