Defensive tactics backfire in heavy loss

Defensive tactics backfire in heavy loss

Selayang - For two seasons, the soak-and-strike strategy has been employed to great effect during the LionsXII's travels.

But did they go to the well one too many times with their conservative approach in their 1-4 Malaysian Cup quarter-final second-leg defeat by ATM on Friday?

George Boateng certainly believes so. The former Netherlands international played for T-Team in the Malaysian Super League this year and was at the Selayang Stadium to see V. Sundramoorthy's side crash out of the Malaysia Cup.

"You do not sit back when you've got only a one-goal lead to defend," he stressed. "That allows your opponents to control the game and means that you will be under constant pressure."

The 38-year-old midfielder was not alone in his assessment that the LionsXII employed the wrong strategy.

Woodlands Wellington coach Salim Moin also feels that the Singapore side should have gone for the jugular after Hafiz Abu Sujad's 50th-minutes strike had put them ahead on the away goals rule.

This, especially with what he perceived to be a suspect ATM central defensive pairing of Amirizwan Taj and Shukor Adan.

"They were leaving a lot of space in between," Salim observed. "The LionsXII could have exploited that by sending on an extra striker but instead Shahfiq Ghani was always outnumbered by them."

That said, the 52-year-old acknowledged that it was individual errors that led to the goals that cost the Singapore side a semi-final berth.

"It's like they forgot how to defend," he quipped.

Indeed, it was the worst possible match for the LionsXII to ship four goals for the first time in their two-year history.

Coach Sundram also pointed out that things went awry for them in front of goal.

One can only imagine what might have been had Shahfiq kept his cool when sent through on goal in the 72nd minute.

The 21-year-old's weak effort was easily saved by goalkeeper Farizal Harun and, just minutes later, ATM striker Marlon James netted the second of his three goals to put them ahead for good.

"If Shahfiq had put the ball in, it would have been a mountain for them to climb," Sundram noted.

Instead, it summed up a miserable evening for his side - about which midfielder Isa Halim said: "Everything we tried went wrong."


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