Malaysian Super League: Banking on a new pair

Malaysian Super League: Banking on a new pair
TWO CAN TANGO: Khairul Amri (above) believes he and Sahil Suhaimi (far left) can play in the same team as they can switch positions at will.

Scoring was a significant problem for the LionsXII in last season's Malaysian Super League.

Their 26-goal haul was just joint-seventh with Kelantan and Sarawak in the 12-team competition.

Coach Fandi Ahmad has bolstered his strikeforce this season with the signing of forward Sahil Suhaimi, who was the Courts Young Lions' top scorer last year with 10 goals.

Both the 22-year-old and the LionsXII's chief striker Khairul Amri, who bagged seven league goals last term, excelled last season for their respective clubs as the main pivot up front.

While something's got to give, Fandi believes he can still get the best out of both marksmen this year.

Said Fandi, 52: "We have experimented with both the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 formations. If we want to be stronger in midfield, we go for 4-3-3 with three central midfielders.

DUTCH STYLE

"This allows us to field Amri, Sahil and Faris (Ramli) up front in a Dutch-style attacking formation."

"Amri is our primary centre forward, but the three of them can also interchange their positions," added the local football legend, who also has Gabriel Quak, Nazrul Nazari and Christopher van Huizen in his arsenal, all of whom impressed in pre-season.

Sufian Anuar, Khairul Nizam and Syafiq Zainal complete Fandi's array of striking options.

Sahil is coming off a poor showing at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup on home soil.

National coach Bernd Stange chose to deploy the goalscorer wide on the right and the youngster struggled to make an impression in the first two group matches.

He did not feature in the Lions' final group encounter against arch-rivals Malaysia, as the reigning ASEAN champions crashed out of the competition after a 3-1 loss.

The LionsXII will look for Sahil to be fired up to make amends, and Amri, 29, is positive about his new teammate, as well as the team's preparations ahead of their season opener against PDRM at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

He said: "The team are preparing and gelling well, and I can see the determination and spirit growing among us.

"Sahil is all ready to play in the MSL and it will be interesting to see this season.

"It is possible to play both of us in the same team because we can always switch positions at will during matches."

Ahead of his maiden foray in Malaysian football and with one eye on June's South-east Asia Games that will be held here, the talented Sahil said: "I am ready to fight for my place in the starting line-up, and I've been working hard during training.

INTENSE

"I know the Malaysian league is faster and more intense than what I am used to, and I will prepare myself to be strong, both mentally and physically."

Both strikers are well aware that the MSL will be "much tougher" this season, with each Malaysian club allowed to field all four of their foreign imports from the start, one more than last season. The LionsXII do not have any foreign signings.

Amri said: "We have lost a number of key players (like Safuwan Baharudin, Baihakki Khaizan and Shakir Hamzah) this season, and the other teams will be allowed to field all their foreign imports, so this season is probably going to be our toughest so far.

"We will all have to step up our game, no matter who is playing."

Fandi's other forward options

Gabriel Quak

Winger

Age: 24

League goals last season: 1

Sufian Anuar

Forward

Age: 27

League goals last season: 3

Faris Ramli

Winger

Age: 22

League goals last season: 4

Syafiq Zainal

Forward

Age: 23

League goals last season: 0

Khairul Nizam

Forward

Age: 23

League goals last season: 0

Nazrul Nazari

Winger

Age: 23

League goals last season: 1

Christopher van Huizen

Winger

Age: 23

*New player from Tampines Rovers

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 5, 2015.
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