Lions XII’s Jan Recap: Fixtures congestion, away woes and a comical Cup exit

Lions XII’s Jan Recap: Fixtures congestion, away woes and a comical Cup exit

By Kenneth Tan (follow Kenneth on twitter @KennerveT)

Phew! So the most arduous part of the 2013 season is finally over for the Lions XII.

Safuwan Baharudin in action for LionsXII

Yeah, it may be premature to put out that statement at this stage but one has to look at what the Singaporean side had to go through in the past month.

It is no secret that the opening weeks of a season are one of the toughest tasks – with players still trying to get into the groove – be it match fitness, team understanding and cohesiveness between the new and existing players.

When the 2013 fixtures list was released by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), it was a baptism of fire for the Lions XII – with six fixtures lined up in a period of 16 days in January, including five league fixtures.

The other months will see them playing only two to three league fixtures, apart from April’s tally of four.

Moreover a number of players from the squad has been fully stretched to their limits by the nation’s victorious AFF Suzuki Cup campaign and had no prolonged periods of rest in the whole calendar year.

TWO WEEKS was all coach V Sundrammorthy had to prepare for the season. Based on that, Singaporeans should be satisfied with how we fared in the month of January – three wins and three defeats.

They got off to the best possible start – taking all three points away against ATM FA through a solitary Shahril Ishak goal before overcoming Selangor FA at home three days later.

There was the disappointment of a shock defeat away against Selangor PKNS, but that was easily erased after a superb comeback win that floored Terengganu FA at their beloved Jalan Besar Stadium four days later.

That was two home wins in two – both impressive in their own way, disciplined in playing out most of the match after leading through an early Fazrul Nawaz goal in the first and courageous in their approach to

The end of the month however was not that sweet –going on the road and suffering successive defeats in both the league and the FA Cup.

A harsh defeat against T-Team was followed up by a disappointing Cup exit to PKNS – once again.

Both are bitter pills to swallow for the Singaporean boys – already feeling hard done by defender Faritz Hameed’s harshly-adjudged handball which led to the winning penalty in Kuala Terangganu, the Cup defeat four days later represents a whole new boiling point.

It was frustrating enough having to re-play the tie after the original match was halted on 38 minutes due to treacherous weather conditions.

However more bombshells were to follow – the tie being played barely 24 hours later being a mild one, the enforced rule of having to field the same starting eleven from the abandoned game being the ultimate.

By the time the news traveled to the Lions XII camp, captain Shahril and Faritz was already on their way back to Singapore due to personal commitments – thus they had to re-start the game with 9 men.

It was perhaps a plight that even home side PKNS sympathized as they briefly put the ball out of play to allow Sundram to bring on the two ‘substitutes’.

With only one substitution left to make in the game, there was not much options for the national legend to change the game after his side went a goal down inside the first 20 minutes.

Moreover midfielder Raihan Rahman got himself into a spot of bother minutes later – being sent off for a ‘second bookable offence’ with rules also stipulating that all cards issued in that abandoned game will stay.

In the end, his side had to suffer an ignominious exit.

However with all that done and dusted, perhaps he could give himself and his boys good pats on their backs for going through that hectic run of fixtures.

The month of February will be slightly easier on their bodies – with home games lined up against Pahang FA and Perak FA on successive weekends, sandwiched by the ‘small’ matter of the much-awaited heavyweight clash against fellow Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad’s star-studded Johor Darul Takzim side in Larkin.

Here at Asian Football Feast, we wish the Lions XII better luck in their endeavors this month!

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