SINGAPORE- If the LionsXII are to go on and retain their Malaysian Super League (MSL) title, coach Fandi Ahmad believes the key will be how they do away from home.
The 2-1 win over fellow contenders Selangor at Jalan Besar Stadium last Saturday gave the team a huge shot in the arm, but Fandi wants his team to improve on their travels, starting with tonight's heavyweight clash against title favourites Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) at the Larkin Stadium "Away wins, especially those against big teams, are very important because straight away it gives us a three-point advantage over our rivals," said the 51-year-old, who pointed out that there had been just one away win - Kelantan's 1-0 victory at Sarawak - after two rounds of MSL action.
"It will not be easy. Every team want to beat the defending champions, but we have to do better than the two away wins last season. If we want to challenge for the title, we need five away wins while maintaining our good home form."
The MSL fixture list threw up a nightmare start for the Singaporean side, pitting them against Malaysia Cup champions Pahang, traditional giants Selangor and title favourites JDT in their first three games.
Said Fandi: "It was difficult because we started pre-season late, but I'm encouraged by the boys' response to the tough start and their character, after taking three points from our first two games."
The LionsXII were nervy in their opening league match at Pahang, but what was encouraging was how Fandi instructed his boys to go forward at every opportunity, a distinct difference from former coach V Sundramoorthy's "safety-first" approach in away games.
The attacking mindset paid dividends in the victory over Selangor, when the team didn't sit back and scored via Khairul Amri's 95th-minute bullet header.
Fandi hopes for more of the same kind of adventure.
"Johor are a good team, some say they are the best team in the league," he said.
"But, as we can see from how T-Team beat them 1-0, they are not unbeatable. Maybe, in having 22 players who can claim a first-team spot, they are still not settled and playing them early could be to our advantage.
"And we have good players, too. We are gaining in confidence and we must continue to have courage and belief, and play attacking football."
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