Their season in tatters and berated by their coach, the LionsXII players have admitted as much that they lack the fight and desire to defend their Malaysian Super League (MSL) crown.
Ahead of tonight's last fixture of the campaign against T-Team in Terengganu, team captain Isa Halim and defender Madhu Mohana backed up coach Fandi Ahmad's claim that the dethroned champions had lost the hunger to grind out results this season after they suffered their 10th defeat in 21 games, losing 0-2 at home to Perak last Saturday.
That defeat - the third in their last five matches - left the LionsXII eighth in the 12-team table with 25 points, just two shy of the relegation zone.
Said Madhu: "Last year, we fought to make sure we stayed at the top but this year, we seem to just give up and stop trying when we are losing."
That was echoed by Isa, who said: "The pressure of being champions took its toll and we just couldn't handle it. We must reflect on this season and ask ourselves how we went from champions to battling relegation."
While some coaches do not hesitate to drop under-performing players, Fandi is holding off such changes for tonight's clash and has instead called on his side to make a stand.
"The players put themselves in this position so it is their responsibility to get themselves out of this now," he said.
"They played better against Perak after we pushed them hard at half-time. We are constantly knocking some sense into them now to remind them of their roles and responsibilities."
Barring a win by a six-goal margin or more for 11th-placed Perak, the LionsXII need only a draw against T-Team, who are a point and one place behind the Singapore side.
Both will be scrambling to finish in the top 10 and gain qualification for the Malaysia Cup, which starts in August. If Fandi's team finish outside the top 10, they will enter a play-off against the fifth or sixth-placed team from the second tier.
Isa, who is suspended for tonight's game, said: "We have to show we're hungrier than T-Team and fight to the end for the result."
This article was first published on JUNE 25, 2014.
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