Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A matter of pride

New Straits Times Online 

EXPECT fireworks across the Causeway when Selangor visit Singapore for the first time in 18 years to take on LionsXII in a Super League match today.

   The Feb 8 Super League first-round match ended in a 1-1 stalemate but the on-form Lions will likely make life difficult for an erratic Selangor side who are, however, brimming with confidence following their impressive 3-0 victory over Kuala Lumpur in the Klang valley derby last weekend.

   The Lions' season has been a difficult one due to injuries but the ability of coach V. Sundramoorthy to mix-and-match his players has paid dividends.

   They are third in the league with 20 points, three off leaders Kelantan and behind second-placed Terengganu on goal difference.

   The Lions need to secure three points from today's match to keep pace with Kelantan.

They, however, tend to be complacent at home with their only two league defeats coming at Jalan Besar Stadium.

But they have gone unbeaten since their 1-0 loss to Terengganu in late January.

   Selangor last played in Singapore in the 1994 Malaysia Cup first leg semi-final match, which they lost 1-0, and were eventually beaten 3-2 on aggregate.

   In today's match, Selangor's defence will need to work overtime to stop Lions' top scorer and captain Shahril Ishak from causing damage. Shahril has scored seven goals to date.

   But Selangor's backline with be shored up with the return of Lebanese international Ramez Dayoub from suspension. His partnership with national player Asraruddin Putra Omar in central midfield has been quite good but they will be tested by the Lions.

   Bosko Balaban has been instrumental in setting up opportunities for his strike partner Amri Yahyah but the Croatia international needs to improve his fitness as his workrate has been far from satisfactory.

   Balaban, a former World Cup player, has scored three goals in all competitions and the 34-year-old will be looking forward to add to his tally today.

   "I have told my players that we must beat the Lions to re-ignite our league ambition. We will be in for a tough time as they too want to win the title," said Selangor coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim.

   "This match is about pride and a victory over the Lions will definitely bring back our fans. They are a young team and we need to stay focused throughout this match."

   Lions had a bruising encounter in Kuching last weekend where the Sarawak fans jeered and threw firecrackers and empty water bottles onto the pitch but they came off with heads held high after a 1-0 win for their fourth straight victory.

   "It was a tough match in Sarawak but we played good football and beat them. We are ready to face Selangor as winning this match is very important for us and also our fans," said Lions' defender Safuwan Baharuddin.

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