Saturday, 23 May 2015

Malaysia FA Cup final: Fandi vows to surprise Cup specialists Kelantan

By Kelvin Leong(ESPN)

Head coach Fandi Ahmad is ready to spring a surprise by going on the attack when LionsXII take on Kelantan in the 2015 Malaysia FA Cup final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday night.

Kelantan's new forwards, comprising of Nigerian Austin Amutu and Brazilian import Gilmar Jose da Silva Filho, have been a revelation since they joined the Red Warriors during the April transfer window, replacing Isaac Pupo and Emmanuel Kenmogne.

In less than a month, they have scored five times between them, while helping Colombian striker Erwin Carrillo to an impressive five goal tally since their arrival.

While fans are expecting LionsXII to continue their renowned counter attacking game away from home, head coach Fandi stunned the pre-match media conference when he hinted at a change of tactics to outsmart Kelantan with an offensive style of football.

He said: "The (Kelantan) attackers are dangerous and the wingers are good like Wan [Zahrulnizam] Zakaria, [Wan Hack] Haikal and their three foreign players. The danger for us is if we give them too much space and time. Thus, we will try to stop it from happening before we start.

"Best form of defence is attack first. We will do something different. Hopefully, we can surprise everyone and come (out) as victors."

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad said his team would attack Kelantan in the Malaysia FA Cup final on Saturday night. Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

The Singapore legend was also quick to underline his team's status as outsiders and is hoping the match will be settled in normal time, without the much dreaded penalty shoot-out.

"We feel proud that we managed to enter the final," he said.

"I hope we can hype up the atmosphere, and we will play hard. We know that many feel that we are the underdogs because the Kelantan team have more experience than us. They have entered the FA Cup final a couple of times. However, we have to keep striving till the last minute. Hopefully, there will not be any penalty kicks."

One player who agrees with his coach's philosophy of giving their all until the very last minute is defensive rock Madhu Mohana.

He said: "I'll just give 100 percent like every other game and stick to the game plan. As defenders, keeping a clean sheet is like scoring a goal. We will do our best to protect our goal although we know its going to be very tough against Kelantan's top strike force."

The presence of Amutu and Gilmar alongside Carrillo, could spell trouble for Madhu and his defensive partner Zulfahmi Arifin. But the Singapore international believes that his teammates are used to handling top imports on a weekly basis.

LionsXII defender Madhu Mohana said his team are not perturbed by the presence of Kelantan's foreign import strikers. Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore.

He said: "I think every other Malaysian team has good foreign strikers and we have been going up against them every week. We shouldn't be nervous or afraid at all. The key is to help each other out, double team the foreigners like we have been doing and I hope we can bring the same mentality to this match."

This is the LionsXII's first ever Malaysia FA Cup final in their four year history. Kelantan have made the final on four occasions in the last six years, winning it in back to back in 2012 and 2013.

Coupled with the LionsXII's unavailability to participate in AFC competitions and by virtue of being finalists in the FA Cup, Kelantan are guaranteed a spot in the 2016 AFC Cup qualifying playoff.

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