|By Khalis Rifhan
The equation is simple, a goalless game or a one all draw at the Selayang Stadium means elimination for LionsXII and the end of their dreams of an appearance in the Malaysia Cup final.
LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan knew this too well, as he spoke to Goal.com Singapore: “The bottom-line is, we must score. We cannot afford to hold back and expect to play for a draw game.”
The first leg tie, played last Friday at Jalan Besar Stadium, saw the home side unable to capitalise on the numerous chances they had on goal.
A defensive lapse allowed Marlon Alex James to give the Gladiators the lead but things were back on level nine minutes later as Safuwan Bahrudin rose above the rest to head home the equaliser.
The result puts ATM in pole position going into the second leg as they will be backed by a boisterous home support and that is exactly what captain Hairuddin Omar is banking come Thursday night.
“It was never easy to play on artificial turf and furthermore we had no sufficient time to train on that pitch," said Hairuddin.
"But we manage to get a draw and it is a good result for us. It gives us the advantage for the second leg.”
Ahead of the game, coach V.Sundramoorthy is once again faced with an injury stricken squad coupled with suspension.
Although Isa Halim and Safuwan Bahrudin are both unavailable for selection due to suspension, Malaysia Cup casualty, Juma’at Jantan should be fit in time to be included in the squad.
Another option for Sundram is to thrust former Courts Young Lions player, Abdil Qaiyyim into the limelight as Sundram had said after the previous game that they need vice-captain Harris Harun in central midfield.
The previous game also saw Safuwan being thrown up front in a desperate attempt to claw their way back from a goal down.
But the reshuffling of position does not trouble Baihakki.
"Overall, we are a team," declared the towering defencer.
"All of us contribute to the team in any position. Having gone this far, I am sure all players will want to do their best and play in the final.”
The situation does not favor LionsXII to progress to the finals on October 20 at the Shah Alam Stadium but Hairuddin warns that his ATM teammates should not be overconfident of it.
“On paper we are favourites as we are playing in from of our home crowd," he said cautiously.
"But there is still everything to fight for and anything can happen. I hope the players do not take things for granted.”