Friday, 22 May 2015

Malaysia FA Cup final: LionsXII aren't practising penalties, says Fandi Ahmad


LionsXII haven't been practising penalty kicks ahead of Saturday's Malaysia FA Cup final, according to head coach Fandi Ahmad.

The Singapore outfit will be underdogs at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium when they face two-time winners Kelantan, who are appearing in their fifth FA Cup final in just seven years. It's the first time LionsXII have made the FA Cup decider.

Extra time and a penalty shoot out will be played if regular time ends in a stalemate. But Fandi says he is treating the match like any other big game. He predicts that the game will be won or lost within regulation time, in front of a crowd of more than 90,000 in Kuala Lumpur.

The last major final -- last November's Malaysia Cup decider between Pahang and Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) -- went to penalty kicks after it was 2-2 at the end of extra time. Pahang, who were knocked out by Kelantan in the semfinals of this year's Malaysia FA Cup last week, prevailed 5-3 in the shoot out.

"They are fighters and they will fight for 95 minutes (or longer)," Fandi told The Straits Times. "No, we haven't practised penalties because the games will be over in 95 minutes."

Head coach Fandi Ahmad won five Malaysia Cups with three different sides during his storied playing career. Photo credit: FAS

52-year-old Fandi, who won five Malaysia Cups with three different sides including two with Singapore, added that the match was his most important in charge of LionsXII.

"This game is definitely the biggest for us so far," he said. "It's a big thing for us, especially the players. They have to show a lot of composure and show that they can take the pressure."

LionsXII utility player Safuwan Bahaurdin, who returned earlier this month from a three month loan spell with A-League club Melbourne City, said he couldn't wait for kickoff.

"The Suzuki Cup final and my Melbourne debut (against Melbourne Victory in front of 40,000 fans) are moments that I will always remember. But this is a final and another chance to win a trophy."

LionsXII are 2013 Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions but have never played in a major Cup final. Kelantan last won the Malaysia FA Cup in 2013 under Croatian Bojan Hodak.

But the Singapore side sit above Kelantan on the MSL table. Kelantan are 10th, just one point above the relegation zone, while LionsXII are three points above them in eighth spot.


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