LionsXII head coach V Sundramoorthy is looking at nothing less than a win in Malacca tonight against Malaysian Super League (MSL) cellar-dweller, Kuala Lumpur, despite missing six regulars. The LionsXII will be looking to get back to winning ways after being held to a thrilling 3-3 draw by Kedah FA over the weekend.
Abdil Qaiyyim look set for his first start in the MSL and the former Young Lions and Home United player will partner Hariss Harun at the heart of the LionsXII backline. The central defender, who turned 23 yesterday, could not have asked for a better birthday present than this.
“It feels good because I have been training hard for the last two months. To be given a chance to start a game is something huge for me. The only game that I played in was the game against Johor FA (LionsXII won 4-3 in a friendly encounter), and I am just waiting to be given a chance to start a MSL game,” Abdil told aXrosstheline.com
“There will definitely be pressure because I am replacing Baihakki (Khaizan), Safuwan (Baharudin) and Sevki (Sha’ban), who have been doing so well this season. I have to do decent enough, and hopefully as the game goes on, I will settle in and do well.
“I think one of my assets is my aerial ability. I hope to contribute in set pieces for the team. This (being given a chance to start) is a dream come true for me, because when I watched my friends play earlier in the season, I was asking myself what would it be like to be part of the team that played in a stadium with such brilliant atmosphere. I will give my best tonight,” added Abdil who notched the opening goal in last month’s 4-3 friendly win over Johor FA in Larkin.
Sundram insists that there will not be any issues with players stepping in to replace the regulars in the team and he also urged his players to step up, and to make themselves count in tonight’s must win fixture.
“We have to throw in players and give them an opportunity to cover for the regulars, and hope that they will live up to expectations,” said Sundram.
“Abdil is a decent defender. Given opportunities, he can be one of Singapore’s centre backs for the future. He should work hard and show us just how good he is, and also to claim a place in the future teams.
“We will be missing the leadership and inspiration of Shahril. But players like Isa Halim, Shahdan Sulaiman and Khairul Amri should be able to take the role of guiding the young boys and giving them support. This is what football is all about,” he added.
On paper, this game may seem like a foregone conclusion especially considering Kuala Lumpur have only managed two points out of a possible 48, and they remain the only team in the entire league without a win. Vice-captain Hariss Harun, who returns from a shoulder injury insisted that despite their lowly position in the league, Kuala Lumpur should not be taken lightly.
“We beat Kuala Lumpur here before, but that was a tough game. We are confident but we are expecting another tough game,” he said.
“Games like these determine where the title goes, because these are points that we have to pick up, not just against the big teams,” added Hariss.
On whether the shuffling in the squad will do any damage to the flow of play in the team, Hariss pointed out that this was not the only time that the team has had to with such a situation.
“We faced the same problem earlier in the season, but the reserves came in and did a good job. So there shouldn’t be any problems. Most of the players are familiar are each other’s playing style,” Hariss told aXrosstheline.com.
Skipper Shahril Ishak who is ruled out of the game due to a suspected dislocated shoulder shared that there should be no reason why the LionsXII should come home with less than three points, calling for his fellow attackers to get the job done for the team.
He said: “I think we have more than capable players to fill my position. Nizam is there, Agu is there, Sufian is there, I think we will be okay. The boys who are selected need to show character in the game tomorrow. As much as we respect KL, there are no excuses to give a poor performance.”
The game will be played at Hang Jebat Stadium, with kick off at 8.45pm.
Probable LionsXII line up (4-1-4-1)
Hyrulnizam Juma’at, Raihan Rahman, Abdil Qaiyyim, Hariss Harun (Captain), Shaiful Esah; Isa Halim; Khairul Amri, Shahdan Sulaiman, Firdaus Kasman, Irwan Shah; Khairul Nizam