Fandi relieved after LionsXII end winless run
Nizam's header enough for Fandi's men to end winless run
(Khairul Nizam 59)
After seven games, the LionsXII finally picked up their second win of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) season at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
While it was a scrappy, hard-fought triumph, coach Fandi Ahmad and his men would have been happy to get over the line and end the winless run.
After a barren first half, it was Khairul Nizam who netted with a close-range header in the 59th minute to ultimately hand his side maximum points in the MSL for the first time since a 5-3 triumph over PDRM on the opening day of the campaign at Jalan Besar.
It was far from the most polished display by the LionsXII in front of 4,748 fans, although Fandi was not complaining at the final whistle.
"What a relief for us," he said, after the game.
"After many weeks without a win in the MSL, I thought we deserved the result.
"You could see it was a makeshift backline but Nazrul (Nazari) played a superb game at left back, while Raihan (Rahman) did well on the right.
"All the players gave their best and I couldn't ask for more from them."
It initially looked as though it was going to be one of those nights for the hosts given Sarawak had the better of the chances in the first half, with Patrick Gerhardt wasting a couple of headers after finding himself unmarked inside the six-yard box.
The home side gradually found their rhythm after the break and the breakthrough arrived a minute before the hour mark when Khairul Amri drilled in a low cross to pick out Nizam and, although the striker failed to connect cleanly with his initial flicked effort, the ball kindly popped back up to him and he made no mistake in planting a header past goalkeeper Fadzley Rahim.
The visitors did have an excellent opportunity to equalise in the 71st minute when the ball broke to the unmarked Shreen Tambi inside the area, but the excellent Izwan Mahbud stood tall to thwart his attempt.
The LionsXII will be looking to build on last night's win when they visit Sime Darby next weekend and, while they will be missing the likes of Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi - who will join up with the Singapore Under-23 squad for centralised training ahead of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games - Fandi is confident they will be able to cope.
"I'm sure the boys are eager to play in the SEA Games and we want to support Singapore's quest for the gold medal," he added.
"This will give others who haven't played that much an opportunity to perform at this level - I believe this is why we're a developmental team after all."
- The writer is a freelancer.
LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 7, Raihan Rahman 6.5 (Wahyudi Wahid 80), Madhu Mohana 7, Zulfahmi Arifin 7, Nazrul Nazari 7.5, Syafiq Zainal 6 (Gabriel Quak 46, 6), Izzdin Shafiq 7, Firdaus Kasman 6.5, Faris Ramli 8, Khairul Amri 7.5 (Isa Halim 85), Khairul Nizam 7.5.
SARAWAK: Fadzley Rahim, Hairol Mokhtar, Patrick Gerhardt, Ronny Harun, Ramesh Lai, Dzulazlan Ibrahim (A. Varathan 69), Ivan Fatic, Sabri Sahar (Nazri Kamal 36), Ashri Chuchu (J. Partiban 59), Shreen Tambi, Ryan Griffiths.
- TNP Man of the Match: Faris Ramli (LionsXII)
- Perak 2 Johor Darul Ta'zim 1
- PDRM 3 Terengganu 1
- ATM FA 1 Sime Darby 1
- Kelantan 2 Selangor 1
- Felda 0 Pahang 1