Amri shines as LionsXII qualify for final
LionsXII striker's superb double sets up final date with Kelantan next Saturday
REPORTING FROM KUALA TERENGGANU
SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
(Paulo Rangel 22, 45+3, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha 60)
(Khairul Amri 18, 28)
- 4-4 on aggregate, LionsXII advance to final on the away-goals rule
It will probably go down as the most important goal in the LionsXII's short history.
Khairul Amri's 28th-minute strike at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium last night might well qualify for the Goal of the Season.
Not simply for the way he struck it, although it was indeed a stupendous strike - a first-time half-volley from outside the box that cannoned off the crossbar, onto the ground and into the top netting.
It was effectively the crucial away goal which sent the LionsXII through to the Malaysian FA Cup final against Kelantan - who beat Pahang 3-1 last night to win 3-2 on aggregate - at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on May 23.
Fandi Ahmad's men lost last night's semi-final, second-leg clash in Kuala Terengganu 3-2, although a Paulo Rangel first-half brace and a volleyed goal from Norshahrul Idlan Talaha in the second half proved futile as the LionsXII won on the away-goals rule after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate.
It will be the first time that a Singaporean team are involved in a Cup final in Malaysian football since the 1994 Malaysia Cup final win, which Fandi was a part of.
"I was quite surprised that it went in, but I knew I hit (the ball) well." Amri said after the game.
"And it hit the crossbar before going in as well - that always makes it nicer.
"It was just one of those days where I was really pumped up. I told the boys before the game, 'Let's make history'.
"And we did it, so for the next two days, it's celebration before we think about the final (next Saturday)."
Although Amri's two goals did half the job, the rest of the LionsXII still had to keep out the threat of Rangel, Norshahrul and playmaker Gustavo Lopez in the second half.
It turned nervy when Norshahrul put Terengganu 3-2 ahead after 60 minutes, but midfielders Izzdin Shafiq and Safuwan Baharudin, along with their teammates were superb in the final 30 minutes.
Izzdin, in particular, was tireless in the centre of the park and composed on the ball.
Centre back Madhu Mohana may have been a head shorter than Rangel, but he made the Brazilian work for every high ball.
The 35,000 fans in the stadium leapt to their feet in the final minute when Ahmad Nordin Alias headed in what appeared to be the winning goal.
Referee Amirul Izwan Yaacob initially allowed the goal to stand but reversed the decision when he saw his assistant flag for offside.
This set off a fracas on the pitch, which saw Rangel and later Gustavo sent off for dissent.
When the final whistle blew, fans pelted the stadium track with half-filled water bottles, aiming abuse at the officials.
Later, both teams and the officials had to stay inside their dressing rooms till slightly past midnight, as angry fans smashed the stadium's main gate and waited by the LionsXII team bus.
Players and officials were unharmed in the end, but at least three fans needed medical attention from paramedics.
None of that mattered to LionsXII coach Fandi, though.
After the final whistle blew, the 52-year-old knelt and kissed the ground before hugging every single one of his staff and players.
"At half-time, I told the boys that Terengganu were in trouble, not us - so don't panic," he said.
"I said, 'Keep fighting, this is our day', and they did that, they fought very hard. The team work and team spirit were superb.
"And, then of course, Amri's goal - what a shot! We (on the bench) were also shocked."
TEAMS & LIONSXII’S PLAYER RATINGS
- TERENGGANU: Sharbinee Allawee, Helmi Remeli, Vincent Bikana, Hasmizan Kamarodin, Zubir Azmi, Zairo Anuar, Gustavo Lopez, Ahmad Nordin Alias, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Ashari Shamsudin 80), Issey Nakajima Farran (Ismail Faruqi 41), Paulo Rangel
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 7, Raihan Rahman 6 (Firdaus Kasman 46, 6), Madhu Mohana 7, Zulfahmi Arifin 7, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6.5, Izzdin Shafiq 7.5, Safuwan Baharudin 7, Nazrul Nazari 6, Gabriel Quak 6.5, Khairul Amri 8.5 (Isa Halim 90), Khairul Nizam 6 (Sufian Anuar 65, 6)
- Attendance: 35,000
- Referee: Amirul, Izwan, Yaacob
LAST NIGHT’S OTHER SEMI-FINAL, 2ND LEG
- Kelantan 3 Pahang 1 (Kelantan 3-2 on aggregate)
M’SIAN FA CUP FINAL
- May 23:Kelantan v LionsXII (Bukit Jalil Stadium)
Fans' coaches attacked
Three LionsXII fans' coaches were attacked by irate Terennganu fans after the Singaporean team qualified for the Malaysian FA Cup final at their team's expense.
Tour operator Akbar Hashim told The New Paper after the match last night: "We were in the stadium waiting for the crowd to clear, but we could see the fans attacking our two buses and one by another tour operator, Walter Koh, and our drivers had run away.
"Thankfully, none of us are hurt, but football should never be about violence.
"Our boys played a fair and clean game, and deserve to make the final.
"We will definitely be at Bukit Jalil to support them (in the final), and we hope more will join us too."
- DAVID LEE