We are not here to park the bus, says Fandi

The LionsXII team training at the Geylang Lor 12 Field, ahead of their Malaysia Cup first-leg match in Pahang.
The LionsXII team training at the Geylang Lor 12 Field, ahead of their Malaysia Cup first-leg match in Pahang. PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

When the LionsXII depart Singapore today for their Malaysia Cup showdown with Pahang, coach Fandi Ahmad will boldly leave something out of his luggage.

Keeping his ignition keys at home, the tactician firmly intoned to The Straits Times that he is not going to park the bus in Kuantan. Instead, he wants to take the game to the hosts and shock them with away goals used to decide drawn knockout ties in the tournament.

The 53-year-old said of the quarter-final first-leg encounter tomorrow night: "We need to go there and get the win. If we just sit back, they'll go all over us. But we must attack.

NO HOLDING BACK

We need to go there and get the win. If we just sit back, they'll go all over us. But we must attack.

FANDI AHMAD , LionsXII coach, on the damage the four-time Cup winners can do

"We have to give our best and look forward to the Malaysia Cup, which is a prestigious tournament.

"It's important to score away goals, especially at this stage of the competition. What we did at Terengganu, that was good."

It was away goals that did the trick for the LionsXII in the Malaysia FA Cup semi-final against Terengganu in May.

Then, although Fandi's men lost 2-3 in Kuala Terengganu to draw 4-4 on aggregate, they progressed to the final thanks to away goals. The LionsXII later lifted the trophy by beating Kelantan 3-1 in the final.

While Fandi hopes that the LionsXII will upset Pahang in their Stadium Darul Makmur lair, it is another challenge to stop their deadly strike partnership of Argentinian Matias Conti and Nigerian Dickson Nwakaeme from scoring.

Conti was the second-highest scorer in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) this season with 12 goals, while Nwakaeme chipped in with nine strikes. And the two players have each taken turns to score against the LionsXII in four previous meetings.

Fandi noted: "Pahang are very aggressive, they are a team of strong attackers, a bunch of fast wingers.

"These two players (Conti and Nwakaeme) are dangerous. We have to stop their midfielders and close down the wingers and so we've practised some of these tactics in training."

While Fandi is aware of Pahang's strengths, he feels that his players are well-prepared to knock the Malaysia Cup holders off their perch. Pahang have won the last two editions of the tournament.

"But it's not just about them, it's about us - I need them (the players) to be disciplined and take care of ourselves, to know what we have to do," the coach said.

Defender Madhu Mohana added: "We've beaten them 4-2 just a few months ago (in the MSL in August), so our morale is good and we know how to beat them."

And with 12 LionsXII players featuring in the national squad who were beaten by Japan (3-0) and Syria (2-1) recently in the World Cup qualifiers, the LionsXII are turning to the Malaysia Cup to provide some cheer for local football supporters.

Madhu said: "Right now, Singapore football is a bit down, and we face criticism by fans. So we need to bounce back and do well in the Malaysia Cup. And the team is eager to do that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Away goals crucial like in FA Cup tie: Fandi'. Print Edition | Subscribe