Malaysian FA Cup: A case for the defence

Malaysian FA Cup: A case for the defence

When the final whistle blew on Saturday, a number of the LionsXII players sank to their knees on the Jalan Besar Stadium turf, seemingly crestfallen.

They had just beaten Terengganu 2-1 in the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final but, after squandering a number of chances, Fandi Ahmad's men almost certainly knew they faced a formidable task in the second leg this Saturday.

With their opponents in possession of a precious away goal and deadly Brazilian striker Paulo Rangel returning to their ranks after suspension, the Turtles are probably favourites to advance to the final on May 23, especially playing in the hothouse atmosphere in Kuala Terengganu.

Speaking to The New Paper after yesterday's training session at the Geylang training field, coach Fandi said: "It's very hard to say what exactly we'll be looking to do on Saturday, but all I can say is that we have to be solid at the back.

"The past few games have been very good for us defensively. We're making fewer mistakes than we used to do, so that's a positive." Aside from Rangel, Canadian international Issey Nakajima-Farran could make a comeback from injury for Terengganu.

With Malaysian international striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha a constant thorn in the LionsXII's side in the first leg, the Singapore defence, possibly anchored by centre backs Madhu Mohana and Zulfahmi Arifin, would be in for a torrid time in the return clash. But Madhu is not worried, recalling how Terengganu with Rangel in the side, were held to a 1-1 draw in a Malaysian Super League clash (MSL) in March.

"Mat Yo (Norshahrul) was a real menace on Saturday. He not only got behind our defence on a number of occasions, but he also got under our skin," admitted Madhu.

"But we held the line well and we communicated with each other in every defensive situation."

"It's going to be a hostile environment and our one-goal advantage doesn't really help much. But even if Rangel starts, we kept him out once, so we can definitely do it again," he insisted.

In the MSL encounter, however, regular centre back Afiq Yunos lined up alongside Madhu.

Afiq has been out of action since hurting his knee while on international duty on March 26 and midfielder-turned-defender Zulfahmi has been deputising in the heart of defence.

STRONG DISPLAYS

Zulfahmi has been turning in strong displays after a shaky start.

With Safuwan Baharudin playing his first match for the LionsXII since his stint with Melbourne City in the A-League, Fandi has options. Safuwan played in central midfield and formed an impressive partnership alongside the ever-improving Izzdin Shafiq, and Fandi hinted that Zul could keep his place for Saturday's match.

"Zul had a tough time when he first replaced Afiq in defence. But he's gone from strength to strength and has become a vital player as we can build from the back through him.

"He is not a natural defender, of course, but I think what this team need is communication.

"Both Madhu and Zul have been playing together for a while now, so splitting that partnership may not be a very good thing."

 


This article was first published on May 12, 2015.
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