Coach Fandi conjures up 1st success

AFTER starting his LionsXII reign with two defeats, Fandi Ahmad now has a win under his belt despite having to cope with a crippling injury list and player withdrawals.

Yesterday, the new coach of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) defending champions had to chop and change his line-up and even switch formations before conjuring up a 2-1 win in a friendly at second-tiered Indonesian Premier League (IPL) side PPSM Magelang.

Fandi, 51, said: "It was a really good performance from the boys and we are getting there in terms of understanding. We could have won by four or five goals but, at least, we are gelling as a team."

On Dec 31, the LionsXII lost 1-3 to the S-League's Courts Young Lions in his first game in charge. Last Saturday, they were beaten 3-0 by IPL side Persis Solo in Yogjakarta in the first match of a three-game tour.

Against Magelang, forward Khairul Amri gave the Singapore side the lead in the 53rd minute when he glanced home midfielder Hafiz Abu Sujad's looping cross.

Seven minutes later, striker Sufian Anuar extended the lead after Amri had beaten his marker and laid the ball for a tap-in. With 10 minutes to go, the hosts scored a consolation.

"It hasn't been easy coping with the absentees and I have to change systems depending on the personnel available," Fandi said. "I started with 4-3-3 against Magelang but switched to 4-4-2 to provide more width. As a result, the wingers supplied lots of balls for the forwards."

Fandi had to contend with having seven players in the treatment room - goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid (ankle), defender Safuwan Baharudin (knee), defender Shakir Hamzah (hamstring), defender Emmeric Ong (knee), midfielder Samuel Benjamin (hip), forward Shahfiq Ghani (back) and forward Khairul Nizam (knee).

Goalkeeper Abdul Qadir, defender Madhu Mohana and winger Faris Ramli have national service commitments and captain Isa Halim had to return home to sit for his diploma exams.

Apart from the result, the ex-national captain was also delighted with his players' attitude.

Fandi, whose team will open their MSL campaign with a trip to Malaysia Cup champions Pahang on Jan 17, said: "Although he has not fully recovered, Safuwan wanted to get some playing time. So I fielded him in the second half.

"With Shakir out, I was short of options at left-back but Gabriel (Quak) didn't mind trying (it) out even though he has not played there before."

The LionsXII will wrap up their pre-season tour with a friendly at IPL outfit PSS Sleman on Friday.

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