The 2015 Malaysia Super League (MSL) has drawn to a close, with the LionsXII ending the season in 7th. The team from Singapore has qualified for the post-season Malaysia Cup, but will be unseeded. Much talk has surrounded around Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan Mahbud this season, but these three breakthrough stars should be commended on their contributions this season and will be as key to the LionsXII’s hopes of adding more silverware this season.
Having signed for the LionsXII in late 2011 from S-League side Woodlands Wellington, Madhu Mohana’s career has been on a constant upward trajectory. The former Courts Young Lions defender only started a total of 24 league games over three years, but with injuries to Afiq Yunos and the positional change for Safuwan Baharudin, Madhu has been an ever present in Fandi Ahmad’s LionsXII backline this season.
madhu’s perfectly timed tackle on arsenal’s jack wilshere
This is for good reason too, as Madhu emerged as a key component in the LionsXII defence, towering over his team-mates as well as opposition strikers. His height has allowed the LionsXII to better deal with some of the taller and more physical foreign strikers favoured by most Malaysian teams. Having started out in the team at right-back, Madhu has sufficient pace to burn as well, with his lanky legs helping him get over the turf with ease and allowing him to make significant last-ditch tackles.
Along with his height, he has cause havoc in opposition area either from his long, lofted throw-ins or via his presence in the box – as evident by the couple of goals he scored this season. Madhu was also part of the Singapore side that managed an impressive goalless draw in Japan, and both Fandi and Singapore coach Bernd Stange will hope Madhu can carry his impressive form into the Malaysia Cup and the upcoming World Cup qualifiers respectively.
Another from the Courts Young Lions, Hafiz Sujad joined the LionsXII from the 2013 MSL season. Able to play at left-back, left wing or central midfield, Hafiz’s versatility proved useful as he managed 18 appearances in the MSL, but struggled with injury in his second season in 2014.
hafiz (8) has upped his productivity both in defence and up front
This season, though, his versatility and fitness have allowed him to be a mainstay in the side. Mostly deployed at left-back, Hafiz managed to show off his defensive abilities, clearing his lines when needed but also composed on the ball in most situations, using his passing ability to work the ball out of defence.
Whenever deployed at left wing, Hafiz managed to give the LionsXII more defensive solidity, while pushing forward effectively to support the attack, scoring a decent amount of goals in the process. His productivity in the final third has definitely improved over the course of the season, with his knack of popping up in goalscoring positions complemented by his composed finishes. The left-footed Hafiz possesses a powerful drive, and his blend of defensive awareness and offensive prowess could make him a contender for the deep-lying playmaker position in the near future.
The departure of vice-captain Hariss Harun for the start of the 2014 season left a huge hole in midfield to fill, but the return of Izzdin Shafiq to the LionsXII set-up managed to ease some doubt among the management and supporters alike. Izzdin required some time to bed into the side during his first season back at the club – after a stint at S-League side Home United – but during the course of this season, Izzdin has definitely risen to the test and is now one of the first names on Fandi’s team-sheet.
izzdin (13) has added much steel to fandi’s midfield
Sitting in front of the back four, Izzdin has served his team well protecting his defence. The former Courts Young Lions has decent vision and passing ability, allowing him to spot faraway team-mates and attempt raking cross field passes. Izzdin has good technique when hitting one from outside the area, but will have to work on this aspect more if he is to contribute to his side’s goal tally.
Izzdin’s physicality is certainly useful for the rigours of the MSL, and his ability to spot danger and tackle cleanly has helped bail out his defence on countless occasions. His stamina and relative pace for a midfielder have enabled him to stay concentrated and see out the majority of games. Izzdin definitely has the potential to be more influential in midfield, possibly driving forward into opposition territory from deep inside his own half.
What do you think? Which LionsXII player has impressed you the most this season? Tell us in the comment section below!