Goals on Gabriel's mind

Gabriel Quak, midfielder of the LionsXII, practises his finishing touch during a training session.

He is still searching for his first goal in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), but if the recent LionsXII friendlies are anything to go by, it won't take winger Gabriel Quak too long.

After notching one in the 2-1 defeat by Myanmar and a brace in the 5-1 thumping of S.League side the Courts Young Lions on Sunday, the 23-year-old (right, in red) has emerged as the top scorer in the four friendlies the MSL champions have played during a one-month break in action - including a 1-0 defeat by Nay Pyi Taw FC and a 4-1 win over Hougang United.

"It feels great to score, but I'm not going to be carried away by these friendlies," Quak told The New Paper, after yesterday's training session at ITE College Central.

"What is important is we continue this good scoring momentum in the MSL when we play Terengganu on Saturday.

"Of course I would love to play and score, but the team come first and we really need to string some wins together to move up the table."

The LionsXII are in eight spot in the MSL standings, two behind fourth-placed Terengganu and 10 behind leaders Selangor.

The Singapore side have a game in hand, but with moneybags Johor Darul Ta'zim set to visit the Jalan Besar Stadium next Tuesday, Fandi Ahmad's men face two stern tests within the space of four days.

As he prepared the team for a hot reception in Kuala Terengganu, LionsXII coach Fandi had mixed feelings about the month-long break.

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"We have lost some momentum with the long break, but we had some good friendlies and I hope the boys won't be too relaxed," he said.

"We worked a lot on defending - off counter-attacks and set-pieces - and finishing.

"I'm happy we scored nine goals in our last two friendlies. Gabriel did well to score his goals but the real test is this Saturday."

Quak scored his three goals in similar fashion - cutting in from the right and beating defenders, before finishing with aplomb.

He said: "The scores didn't really matter, but what was positive was that we scored our goals the way we practised during training.

"They were not just scrappy tap-ins, but well-worked goals."

"Personally, I would have preferred not to have such a long break, but it gave us the opportunity to rectify our mistakes, and the Myanmar trip was like a solid centralised training tour.

"With Baihakki (Khaizan) back, we have more experience and confidence. The feel-good factor is back with the team and we are ready for Terengganu."

Baihakki's return from Johor throws up the prospect of versatile defender Safuwan Baharudin being pushed further upfield.

In the 5-1 win over the Young Lions, Safuwan was deployed behind striker Khairul Amri, and he responded by scoring once and laying on an assist for Quak.

Said Fandi: "Safuwan's best position is still at the back, but we also need to strengthen the midfield.

"We will have to take it game by game. If there is a need to push him up, we will."

This article was published on May 13 in The New Paper.

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