After the debacle against Johor FC, where the LionsXII simply passed the ball around at the back during the last 30 minutes of their 0-0 draw, skipper Shahril Ishak acknowledged that the team would have to do more than just apologize.
“We can say ‘sorry’, but that’s just words. Inside the pitch, we have to show them that we are ready to play good football,” the talismanic playmaker explained.
Shahril admitted that the team was affected by the criticism, but insisted that they have since recovered and are ready to take on Pahang FA in the first-leg of their quarter-final tie.
“Right now, it is the quarter final, and this game is not about the points but the goals," he added.
"We need the goals to bring back to Jalan Besar [Stadium].
“Of course, mentally we were upset [with how things were in the last game], but it was beyond our control. The main thing is that we reached the quarter-finals, and we want to go on to play in the semi-final.”
The LionsXII finished joint-top of Group A with Johor FC, but managed to find the back of the net four times in six matches. In contrast, their opponents on Tuesday night scored a whopping 17 times in their Group D campaign.
However, Shahril is not about to press the panic button yet, as he tried to play down expectations.
“It’s a different level,” he cautioned. “In the Malaysia Cup, every team wants to play well.
“Pahang is not an easy team; you can see they also scored a lot of goals [during the group stages], so we must be careful at the back.”
Injured full-back Juma’at Jantan is doubtful for the game, although there are no suspension worries for the LionsXII. Vice-captain Hariss Harun and winger Yasir Hanapi should also be available, after initial concerns that the duo might miss the game due to NS duties if it had been scheduled on last Friday.
Shahril said that preparations for the game were going well, while Pahang’s record of 13 goals conceded in the group stages will also give them cause for optimism.
“So far, the players are all focused [on the game] and they know that we need goals over there,” he asserted, before also adding that he hopes to start.
Echoing coach V. Sundramoorthy’s call after the Johor FC match for the supporters to come back and cheer the team on, Shahril urged: “On behalf of the LionsXII team, I hope the fans will support us all the way in the Malaysia Cup.”
The Pahang FA-LionsXII match will be played on Tuesday, September 25 at the Darul Makmur Stadium, Kuantan, with kick-off scheduled for 8.45 pm.
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