|JALAN BESAR STADIUM
By Khalis Rifhan
There were certain quarters in the local footballing fraternity who felt that the LionsXII might crumble in the opening stages of the new Malaysian Super League (MSL) season because of several issues such as injuries and unavailability of players due to National Service commitments.
But assistant coach K. Balagumaran knew from the beginning that things were not going to be gloomy after seeing the promising young talent in the squad.
“When I started with the team, I saw lots of potential," he pointed out. "I would not say it’s a crisis as it is very negative. Since the friendly against Pahang and the last game, I have seen signs of improvement in developing these young players.”
But despite notching up two consecutive wins in the opening stages of the league, Bala insisted that the team is yet to play to their full potential and believes that things would have been easier for the team had his strikers been more clinical against Selangor in their 1-0 victory on Saturday night.
“I see the spirit [in the players] but we could have played better," he explained. "There is determination and tactical discipline in carrying out coach Sundram’s plan in the game, especially the set-pieces."
“We were working on this match and we saw their (Selangor's) weaknesses. I think [in] today's game, we created [more] chances compared to the last game.
“If we had good finishing, we could have killed the game in the second half. Fazrul [Nawaz] did well, but there was one sitter that he could have finished, but the second one (the goal) was good.”
The former Gombak United head coach was also impressed with his side's discipline during the game.
“The team's shape when we were not in possession of the ball, and [in terms of] shifting players and attacking players coming back to defend [was good], so it works out for us today," he said.
When it was pointed out to him that captain Shahril Ishak looked out of sorts in the game, Bala explained that it was because the midfielder was not in the best physical shape.
“Shahril was not well and 100% fit as he was having a fever yesterday, I personally feel that he did not shine compare to the last match, but he had given his best," he said.
The LionsXII will next travel to Selangor on January 15 to face Selangor PKNS at the Shah Alam Stadium before hosting Terengganu four days later at the Jalan Besar Stadium.