Malaysian Super League: Out to end PKNS curse

Malaysian Super League: Out to end PKNS curse
LionsXII captain Isa Halim (centre) leading from the front during a training session at Jalan Besar Stadium.

SINGAPORE - Four games, four losses, no goals scored.

Since they first entered Malaysian club football competitions in 2012, the LionsXII have failed to garner joy from their travels to PKNS, with the Red Ants winning 1-0 in every single fixture.

This abysmal record - in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup - could have even greater implications if it continues this year.

A loss tonight at the Shah Alam Stadium could nudge the LionsXII further down the MSL standings, and leave them in danger of missing out on the glamorous post-season Malaysia Cup.

Fandi Ahmad's charges sit in eighth spot in the 12-team MSL standings, six points above ATM FA in the relegation zone, with just three games remaining.

The Singapore side have relegation immunity as part of the 2011 memorandum of understanding that brought the team into existence, but with automatic qualification for the Malaysia Cup hinging on a finish in the top 10 of the MSL, a poor season could end up absolutely catastrophic in a blink of an eye.

If they end the season in 11th spot, the LionsXII will face the sixth-placed team of the Malaysian Premier League - the country's second-tier league competition - in a one-off playoff for a spot in the Cup.

"Our worst fear is that we don't qualify automatically, which means we'll need to get a win as soon as possible and regain some confidence," said skipper Isa Halim. "And that will start (tonight) against our bogey team, PKNS. We need a win against PKNS, and we are trying not to think of them as our bogey team."

While PKNS are rooted to the bottom of the table, and have lost their last five games, the LionsXII's task will not be easy.

They will have to do without top-scorer Khairul Amri, the cultured left foot of Zulfahmi Arifin and utility man Hafiz Abu Sujad, who are all out injured. The cause is not helped by the suspension of hard-tackling defender Shakir Hamzah.

A fixture that seemed merely academic has now taken on much greater significance.

It is a fact not lost on Safuwan Baharudin, the team's second top-scorer, with four goals (Amri has seven).

"Of course I'm worried that Amri cannot play in this game. What makes it worse is that I haven't scored in the last four games, either," he told TNP.

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