Fandi not throwing in towel despite 4-1 deficit
With an away goal, Fandi says all's not lost for LionsXII
QUARTER-FINAL, 1ST LEG
(Hafiz Kamal 6, Matias Conti 55,
Dickson Nwakaeme 59, R Gopinathan 65)
(Safuwan Baharudin 90+3)
After the final whistle, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was smiling craftily while Pahang striker Dickson Nwakaeme tore his jersey off and cursed his teammates.
You would never have guessed from their reactions that Pahang had just won 4-1 in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarter-final at the Darulmakmur Stadium in front of 25,000 fans last night.
But Nwakaeme was furious after watching Safuwan Baharudin head in a late consolation because he knew the away goal could cost them dear if the LionsXII can somehow win 3-0 in the return leg at Jalan Besar on Saturday.
Fandi, on the other hand, felt that with the second leg coming up, there was no point in stomping on his team's already fragile confidence after the crushing defeat in which they had no answer to Pahang's pace and their import players' incisiveness.
The 53-year-old said: "I will make my feelings known to the players in the dressing room, but this is not the time to hang them out to dry in public.
"You can see the Pahang players swearing at each other after we scored because they know it's not over.
"If it was 4-0, then it would most probably have been game over. 4-1 is still a big deficit to overcome, but we have the away goal and, with the help of our fans, we will make the impossible possible."
While the LionsXII have an 18-match unbeaten record at Jalan Besar, where they have a 4-0-2 record against Pahang, they have beaten the Elephants 3-0 only once, in a league match in 2013.
They will need a vast improvement from last night's performance in which they never really got going.
The usually reliable Izwan Mahbud could not keep out Hafiz Kamal's sixth-minute free-kick from a tight angle and was jittery for most of the match.
The LionsXII enjoyed more possession than Pahang but never made it count. Crosses were overhit or sent wide, strikers Sufian Anuar and Sahil Suhaimi dropped deep instead of attacking the box.
And, when the ball was inevitably lost, they had no answer to Pahang's lightning-quick counter-attacks as the hosts hit three times in 10 minutes in the second half.
Twice, Hafiz crossed from the left for the irrepressible Matias Conti in the 55th minute and then the beastly Dickson Nwakaeme in the 59th minute to score. Substitute R Gopinathan then completed Pahang's scoring in the 65th minute when he tucked home Azamuddin Akil's through-ball.
Fandi seemed to hint that hamstrung striker Khairul Amri could feature on Saturday, as he said: "We didn't have someone who could hold up play, our delivery was poor and we will shuffle the team.
"We have beaten Pahang before and we have scored three and four past them before at home.
"We have to believe it is possible to overcome this result and make it to the semi-finals."