Malaysian Super League: Back to business

It's been almost a month since the LionsXII's intoxicating night out at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, when they defeated Kelantan 3-1 to lift the Malaysian FA Cup.

Tonight, Fandi Ahmad's men will return to bread-and-butter football in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and the goal is to show they belong in the most important club competition across the Causeway.

The LionsXII take on second-from-bottom ATM at the Jalan Besar Stadium and have the opportunity to kick off the second half of their MSL campaign on a winning note.

Fandi's side are eighth in the 12-team standinds after 10 games but confidence is high in the camp, and not just because of the FA Cup triumph.

On Tuesday, Singapore's senior side held out Asian giants Japan in front of 57,533 fans at the Saitama Stadium 2002, in a World Cup qualifier that featured a number of LionsXII players.

Speaking to The New Paper after a training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, Fandi said: "Now, it's all about the future, and what we accomplish from now on.

"The Cup final was a big moment for us, and I could tell the huge upturn in morale and confidence after that.

"Then came the result in Japan, and you can see during training how motivated the boys are.

"But we need to put all our focus into the league now, and aim for a good position when the season ends."

Eight LionsXII players started against the Japanese, with goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud the star and centre back Madhu Mohana also earning plaudits for his performance.

Madhu, 24, said: "All the players are in good shape.

"Morale is sky-high at the moment and we're very excited to get back to league action.

"I know that the FA Cup final was some time ago, but we can still use that experience as a way to spur us on for the remainder of the MSL season.

"Plus the match against Japan, we are in very good mood, and like we showed (on Tuesday), keeping a clean sheet is so valuable."

One player with a point to prove is Faris Ramli.

The flying winger had his wings clipped in the Singapore Under-23s' disastrous campaign at the SEA Games, as he struggled to replicate his club form.

"For me, personally, it's all about a shift in mindset and focus," said Faris.

"It's not the SEA Games anymore, and we need to be mentally prepared to focus on the MSL from now on.

"Plenty was expected of me at the SEA Games, but we didn't do very well. We faced criticism, but we take it all in and move forward.

"I'm just excited to return to playing with familiar faces, and senior players, and against ATM, it will be the start of something new.

"For me, and also the team, it's a new chapter.

"We just need one game to change everything."

This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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