The LionsXII coach was left bemoaning a dubious penalty decision that levelled the scoreline for the visitors but was optimistic for the next game against ATM FAThe LionsXII went down 3-2 to a star-studded Johor Darul Takzim on Tuesday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium and the performance from the young Singapore side was well-appreciated by their coach Fandi Ahmad.
The former Singapore international was clearly frustrated by the penalty decision that led to the equalising goal for the visitors and in the subsequent post-match television interview, Fandi revealed that he had approached the officials to point out that Afiq Yunos had not handled the ball in the penalty box.
Television replays vindicated the Lions defender and his coach. Afiq unfortunately was also booked in the aftermatch for his alleged infringement and will now miss the crucial tie against ATM FA this coming Saturday.
"You all saw it, I won’t say anything," was Fandi's reply when posed the question in the post-match press conference. "I can’t believe that in football now, chesting the ball is a penalty. So be it. It’s happened to us every time. It’s quite disappointing and demoralising for the players. He (the referee) was not in a good position to decide, the ball wasn’t even near his (Afiq’s) arms."
"I don’t understand when the ball hit the chest and it’s a penalty and yellow card. How can he (the referee) say that when he’s behind; 10, 15 metres away?"
However, Fandi did not dwell on the incident for long and accepted that the team had been let down by a lack of concentration after taking the lead.
"I thought we did well, a bit jittery at the beginning, but we came back strongly," said Fandi. "They had more possession because they had better players. We took our chances well but after the second goal we lost a bit of confidence and focus that resulted in the first goal (for them). Congratulations to them, I thought they came back really well."
Fandi also offered praise for Faris Ramli's eye-catching opener, labelling it a 'super, smart play' from the 2013 Goal Singapore Young Player of the Year winner. He was also particularly thankful for the LionsXII faithful for remaining behind the team despite being coming into the game on the back of a two-game losing run.
"Some good moments for us, but again these boys are young and inexperienced, you can see the difference," added Fandi. "But we are improving, in terms of individual ability, we are quite happy. At the end of the day we have to work hard."
"What's important for us is that the fans stayed behind us. They understand that we have a very young team. They know we are trying very hard, we never give up. This is football."
With two players suspended for the next game against ATM FA at home following bookings for Madhu Mohana and Afiq, Fandi was still confident that a win was on the cards, adding: "After the third loss, sure it’s a win. Definitely."
LionsXII will welcome back Baihakki Khaizan this weekend, after the centre-back was contractually prevented from appearing in the JDT match. The Singapore side are now in eighth place while their next opponents sit third from bottom with no wins on the road so far.