LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan to play a key role in MSL title change

LIONSXII v PKNS(Monday, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 201 & 255)

SINGAPORE - Looking ahead to their upcoming clash with PKNS last Friday, LionsXII goalkeeper coach Lee Bee Seng asked Izwan Mahbud if he would need a ladder at the game on Monday.

Izwan, 22, stands at 1.80 metres, and PKNS striker Patrick Wleh is only five centimetres taller, but Lee couldn't help cracking the joke.

Admittedly, the Singapore international is hardly an imposing physical presence, but he is fast becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the region.

He will be the first name V Sundramoorthy pencils in as a starter on the team list in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) contest against PKNS at the Jalan Besar Stadium, as the LionsXII look to extend their lead at the top of the standings.

Including PKNS, the LionsXII have five games remaining in the MSL and Izwan's performances in between the sticks will be crucial if the Singapore side are to go on and lift the title.

The team will entertain second-placed Johor Darul Takzim on June 22 in a potentially explosive encounter, and still have daunting away tests against Perak and Kelantan.

Turning serious, Lee said such big games serve only to motivate his No. 1 goalkeeper.

"Izwan saves his best when playing in front of big crowds," the 59-year-old former Singapore No. 1 said.

"It's the kind of player he is... he loves to defy the odds.

"He's not very tall for a goalkeeper, but that's not an issue. Izwan makes up for it with smart positioning and good jumping."

The LionsXII have the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 10 goals in 17 games.

Izwan has started every one of those games and kept eight clean sheets.

"I'm surprised as well to have started every match," said the goalkeeper, who reminded this reporter not to jinx the impressive statistic.

"It's no big secret - I've just been lucky to stay injury-free."

Known for his coolness under pressure, wonderful shot-stopping skills and accurate kicks, Izwan is enjoying his football.

He admits the LionsXII will face intense pressure in their quest to win the MSL.

"Of course, I'm starting to feel the pressure. It's important we keep a clean sheet for the next five games," he said.

"If we do that, I believe we will become champions."

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