*Lions XII ‘locked up’ in dressing room until 3am
* Only an hour’s power nap before taking flight home
* ‘Boys kept their cool and discipline’ – Fandi Ahmad
Singapore outfit Lions XII were holed up in the dressing room inside the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu until the 3am on Sunday – more than four hours after their second-leg FA Cup semi-finals match against Terengganu on Saturday.
It was for their own safety after Terengganu fans and supporters went on a riot following their team’s failure to reach the FA Cup final despite a 3-2 win in the return-leg which left both teams tied 4-4 on aggregate. Lions marched into the final on the away goals rule. The first-leg in Jalan Besar Stadium ended with a 2-1 win for the Lions.
The high profile match ended with Terengganu’s foreign players – Brazilian Paulo Rangel and Argentine midfielder Gustavo Lopez – getting the sack in injury time for pushing and shoving referee Amirul Izwan Yacob – who became the target after he disallowed Terengganu’s fourth goal by Nordin Alias deep into injury time.
“We were locked up inside the dressing room before the police gave us the green light that it was safe to leave the stadium. The bus ferrying us was parked inside the stadium but apparently the (Terengganu) fans broke into the stadium and damaged the bus.
“I was later told that buses ferrying the Singapore fans parked elsewhere were also not spared. It is frightening to think of what happened at the final whistle but I am glad none of my players or team officials got hurt,” said Fandi while in transit at KLIA.
Fandi also revealed that a one-hour power nap was all the players and team officials could get at the the hotel where they stayed in Kuala Terengganu before leaving for the airport for the 8am flight home.
“We are all very tired. Everything was so obsorbing for everyone. We came us underdogs but we are returning home as FA Cup finalists. Many had not given us a chance when playing a full strength experienced Terengganu side.
“I am proud of my players…they were disciplined and focused on the match. They kept their cool and it played a big role in (us) reaching the (FA Cup) final.”
What makes reaching the FA Cup final all the more sweet for Fandi and company is that he was without three of his regulars – midfielders Faris Ramli and Christopher van Huizen and defender Shakir Hamzah – all of whom are with the Singapore SEA Games team currently training in Japan.
While not taking away credit from anyone involved in the team for reaching the FA Cup final against Kelantan at the National Stadium in in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur on May 23, Fandi could not avoid mentioning his prized possession Khairul Amri for the brace against Terengganu.
“He was our trump card. (Khairul) Amri made it count and his second was one of the best seen in the competition.
While Khairul scored in the 18th and 28th minutes. Terengganu replied through Paulo Rangel (22nd and 45th) and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.