Sundram defends insipid LIONSXII

LIONSXII coach V. Sundramoorthy was quick to defend his side after Friday's lacklustre 0-0 draw with Johor FC in the Malaysia Cup.

Hariss showing good strength in the engine room.

By Gabriel Tan

The result was enough to see the Singaporean outfit finish top of Group A and advance to the quarter-finals, but it was far from a convincing display as neither side dared to be adventurous, knowing a draw would see them both progress.

As the final whistle blew, a majority of the 4,987 crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium jeered both teams off; a rare occurence considering the LIONSXII faithful have been extremely supportive of their side all season long.

Still, Sundramoorthy insisted his team had not set out their stall to play for a draw, and believes fatigue was the reason behind their insipid display.

"In the first half, it was very exciting," he said after the game. "We were going forward and trying to create chances, and we tried our best to score goals.

"In the second half, I feel the boys were fatigued and tired. They have just played too many games recently and that slowed down the tempo of the game."

When pressed further on why the LIONSXII were content to pass the ball around in defence for the last 25 minutes of the match, the former Singapore international maintained that his charges were looking for the opportune moment to push forward, and that they weren't helped by Johor FC's negative tactics.

"We were trying to find the passage to break through the walls of opposition players, pass the ball around and create something," Sundramoorthy added.

"Johor were sitting back with ten players behind the ball. It wasn't easy to penetrate them."

The result also meant that the LIONSXII finished the group stage having scored just four goals in six matches, although their coach believes they have the necessary firepower to deal with Pahang in the quarter-finals.

"The quarter-finals will be very crucial and I believe we have the players who are capable of changing the game," he insisted.

"I've played for Pahang before; it'll be a good match against them."

Johor FC team manager Wan Nizam Wan Omar expressed his belief that the draw was a very good result for his side, especially after they lost three players to injury during the match - captain Khairul Ismail, star striker Arthuro Bernhardt and Riduwan Maon.

"I would like to congratulate my team and LIONSXII for qualifying," he said. "We knew before the start we had to be cautious because of injuries.

"In the first half two of our players picked up serious injuries, and we had one more at the start of the second half. As such, getting a draw was quite a good result for us.

"Both teams were cautious and we had many injuries. I don't think our players could move and we were cautious about the LIONSXII counterattack."

And while the Bees will face a tough test in the last eight against 32-time champions Selangor, Wan Nizam believes there is no reason for them to fear the Red Giants.

"We want to win the Malaysia Cup," he declared.

"Hopefully our players on the injured list come back in time, especially our striker Arthuro, who we are quite dependant on getting the goals. He's our top scorer in the competition so far.

"Everybody stands a good chance in the knockout round. Even teams who aren't favourites can cause upsets."

The first leg of the quarter-final clashes between LIONSXII and Pahang, and Selangor and Johor FC will both take place next Friday.

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