Turtles must come out of their shell

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad has warned his men to be wary of Paulo Rangel (above) who is eager to make amends after a three-month ban.
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad has warned his men to be wary of Paulo Rangel (above) who is eager to make amends after a three-month ban. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Last in group, Terengganu out to do well against LionsXII

They are supposed to be the LionsXII's toughest opponents in their Malaysia Cup campaign.

Finishing their Malaysia Super League (MSL) season with eight wins in nine matches, Terengganu were imperious as they ended up fourth in the 12-team league.

The Turtles also have a good record against the LionsXII going into tonight's Malaysia Cup Group A clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

In their last six encounters , the LionsXII have won only once against the Malaysian side.

Yet, the mood was sombre at Terengganu's training session yesterday as they are still licking their wounds from a 5-0 thumping by second-tier side Kedah last week.

They are last in Group A, having begun their campaign with a 0-0 draw against Johor Darul Takzim II (JDT II).

Coach Ahmad Yusof, however, warned that his wounded side are eager to bounce back and show that the heavy defeat was a one-off.

DON'T DISCOUNT THEM

Terengganu are a very good side and I think the only reason they lost that way was because they were down to nine men.''

FANDI AHMAD, LionsXII coach, warning his team not to write off their opponents despite their 5-0 thrashing by Malaysian Premier League champions Kedah

"It is hard to forget when you lose like that but it is important that we now focus on what is ahead," said Ahmad, who took over the team in June. "The players are focused and want to make things right.

"The LionsXII are very hard to beat, especially at their home ground. We have no choice but to get a point from this game because of our first two results."

For a side eager to bounce back, no player will be as committed as striker Paulo Rangel.

In Terengganu's Malaysian FA Cup semi-final exit against eventual champions LionsXII in May, the Brazilian lost his cool and kicked the ball at the assistant referee.

He was shown a straight red card and worse was to follow when the Football Association of Malaysia banned him for six months.

That was later reduced to three months owing to good behaviour.

Tonight is Rangel's first match in four months and, coincidentally, he faces the LionsXII again.

"It was a mistake and that has finished so tomorrow is a new start," said the 2014 MSL top scorer yesterday. "It was a very difficult time for me. This is the first time something like this happened in my career.

"I had to watch the team from the stands and it hurt.

"I will give 100 per cent tomorrow and I want to help win the game for the team."

The LionsXII have enjoyed an unbeaten start to their Cup campaign, holding Kedah to a 1-1 draw at home before bagging a 2-1 victory away to JDT II last Saturday.

Coach Fandi Ahmad has warned his side not to read too much into their opponents' last defeat.

"Terengganu are a very good side and I think the only reason they lost that way was because they were down to nine men," he said.

"We must be especially wary of Rangel because he is someone who has caused us trouble before. We cannot afford to be complacent and it is very important that we get three points because we are playing at home."

The LionsXII's preparations have been hampered by the haze.

Fandi was forced to cancel a tactical training session on Thursday after the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading went beyond the unhealthy levels.

He said ruefully: "It did affect us because I had planned to do a bit of tactical work with the boys but, because the haze was so bad, I had to call it off. "

Already, the other Group A encounter between Kedah and JDT II has been postponed.

In a response to a query from ST with regards to tonight's match being affected by the haze, an FAS spokesman said: "As a guiding principle, should the three-hourly PSI exceed 300 at 5pm or if it exceeds 200 at 7pm, we will postpone the affected matches. 

"Should the three-hourly PSI range from 151 to 200 at 7pm, we will delay the kick-off timing and monitor the haze situation to see if it improves. Further decisions will then be made on an hourly basis thereafter."

LIONSXII V TERENGGANU

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Turtles must come out of their shell'. Print Edition | Subscribe