Fandi: I can take the pressure



(Abdelafees Abdulsalam 16, Milan Purovic 65)

They have gone from champions to facing the prospect of having to scrap in a play-off match for a place in the Malaysia Cup.

The LionsXII's decline in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) has been mind-boggling, and last night's 2-0 defeat at home to second-from-bottom Perak was the nadir in what has been an abysmal season.

Perak's two foreign strikers, Nigerian Abdelafees Abdulsalam and Montenegrin Milan Purovic, capitalised on two moments of static defending in each half to find the net at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The loss was the LionsXII's fifth in their last seven matches.

Some sections of the team's support have pointed the finger at coach Fandi Ahmad for the team's troubles, saying that he is as much to blame as the players who he has frequently criticised after each disappointing result.

Fandi (right), who took over from V Sundramoorthy last December, brushed off the criticism.

Speaking to The New Paper, he said: "The critics can say what they want, they are entitled to their own opinions.

"I can take the pressure, and that's why I'm here.

"I'm just disappointed that the team's performance still isn't there."

Over the course of the season, Fandi has pointed to several factors which have made the season a difficult one.

The loss of key players Shahril Ishak, Hariss Harun and Baihakki Khaizan - the latter returned midway through the campaign, though - plus a new MSL rule allowing Malaysian teams to sign two extra foreign imports, are two reasons.

As the season started going pear-shaped for the LionsXII, Fandi pointed to his players' lack of fighting spirit.

Last night, he said: "We simply didn't turn up. When we wanted to play, we created three very good chances in the second half.

"We lost to a team that had better fighting spirit and teamwork.

"I can count how many of our players had that fire, just three or four... The rest just go through the motions."

When asked to assess the season, Fandi shook his head and said: "It's a disaster. For last year's champions to finish (this low), it's bad.


"We have to go to the drawing board, see who we need to keep (for next season). We need fighters and team players, not individuals."

Perak coach Abu Bakar Fadzim pointed the finger at the LionsXII defence, which has kept just one clean sheet in the last 10 games. The 1998 and 2000 Malaysia Cup winner said: "They seem to concede in every game... We've been through this ourselves this season.

"When your defence concedes goals, the team are under a lot of pressure.

"We hadn't kept a clean sheet for six games before tonight, that's why I called out my defence and goalkeeper before this game and told them what I needed from them."

This article was first published on June 22, 2014.
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