Fandi satisfied despite defeat
REPORTING FROM KUALA TERENGGANU
(Javier Estupinan 11, Zairo Anuar Zailani 68-pen)
(Khairul Amri 8)
He had just lost a match that should signal the end of his team's title defence.
But LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was not in a rage like he was on a few occasions this season.
There were the customary individual errors and even more dubious refereeing decisions that saw Terengganu being awarded a soft 68th-minute penalty that Zairo Anuar Zailani converted to give the hosts a 2-1 win, as well as a disallowed goal by Baihakki Khaizan that would have given LionsXII an injury-time equaliser.
Instead he was all smiles as he exclaimed: "What a game, man, what a game!
"I'm very satisfied with how the team played overall."
The 51-year-old told The New Paper he felt his team had just played their best game on the road, and could have won the match had his players been more clinical in the first half.
Indeed, Khairul Amri gave the LionsXII a great start, when he met Shakir Hamzah's lovely cross with a header across goal that went in off the post after eight minutes.
However, their lead lasted just three minutes when big Colombian striker Javier Estupinan lost his marker Baihakki and sent a thumping header past Izwan Mahbud from Zairo's corner.
Two good chances were passed up when Faris Ramli couldn't get enough purchase on his header off Faritz Abdul Hameed's fine cross in the 32nd-minute, before Afiq Yunos poked wide after Zulfahmi Arifin's corner caused confusion in the Terengganu box.
Terengganu strikers Moustapha Dabo and Estupinan - both more than 1.85m tall - were physically imposing, but Baihakki and Afiq Yunos generally did well in the heart of the LionsXII defence.
The visitors also did well on the flanks, with wingers Gabriel Quak and Faris having a lively outing, as Faritz and Shakir overlapped well.
However, the match turned when Estupinan won a dubious penalty as Izwan charged out from his line in a one-on-one situation.
Then in injury time, the assistant referee flagged for offside after Izwan's long ball was knocked down by substitute Sufian Anuar for Safuwan Baharudin to square for Baihakki to score.
"Yes, we lost, but I'm pleased with the players' performance," said Fandi.
"Selangor won their match, so we are 13 points away with a game in hand.
"Let's not talk about the title now. Let's focus on Tuesday's game against Johor Darul Ta'zim and take it a game at a time. If we can show the same commitment in our last seven matches, create as many chances and finish better, we will be fine."
However, the LionsXII will have to cope without Baihakki, who cannot take on former employers JDT after being allowed to terminate his contract and rejoin the Singaporean side.
They will also have to improve in the engine room, as stand-in skipper Safuwan had an unspectacular performance in midfield and Zulfahmi struggled to keep up with the pace as he tried to shrug off a niggling injury.
Raihan Rahman was his usual combative self, but he will be a big miss after collecting his third yellow card of the season last night and will be suspended for the JDT match.
Fandi said: "Safuwan did well to win and keep possession and it looks like he will continue in midfield. Baihakki will be out, but we still have Madhu (Mohana) who can play at centre back with Afiq.
"We lost to a very soft penalty and some of the decisions went against us, but we can't dwell on that. We have to concentrate on Tuesday's match now and try to get a result in front of a stadium full of home support."
- TERENGGANU: Sharbinee Allawee, Mazlizam Mohd, Vincent Bikana, Azlan Zainal, Zubir Azmi, Zairo Anuar Zailani, Ismail Faruqi (Nor Hakim 90), Ahmad Nordin, Ashaari Shamsuddin (Fakhrurazi Musa 83), Moustapha Dabo (Mario Karlovic 89), Javier Estupinan
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6, Faritz Abdul Hameed 7, Baihakki Khaizan 6.5, Afiq Yunos 6.5, Shakir Hamzah 7, Gabriel Quak 6.5, Raihan Rahman 7 (Sufian Anuar 76), Safuwan Baharudin 6, Zulfahmi Arifin 5 (Firdaus Rahman 81), Faris Ramli 6.5 (Hafiz Abu Sujad 84), Khairul Amri 6.5
- Shots: Terengganu 3 on target, 5 off target, LionsXII 3 on target, 10 off target
- Corners: Terengganu 3, LionsXII 7
- Offsides: Terengganu 6, LionsXII 1
- Yellow cards: Terengganu 1, LionsXII 2 (Raihan Rahman, Izwan Mahbud)
- Attendance: 7,000
- Match rating: 7/10
- Referee: Zamzaidi Katimin 5/10
- TNP Man of the Match: Raihan Rahman
BLOW BY BLOW
GOAL! Khairul Amri rises at the back post to nod Shakir Hamzah's deep cross past Terengganu goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee.
LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud is stranded outside the box. Moustapha Dabo lifts the ball over him but misses the target.
GOAL! From the resulting corner, though, the Turtles equalise as 1.90m-tall Colombian striker Javier Estupinan heads home.
LionsXII fullback Faritz Hameed swings in a superb cross which teammates Amri and Faris Ramli just fail to get on the end of.
GOAL! Terengganu captain Zairo Anuar scores from the penalty spot after Estupinan crumbles in the box under the slightest of touches from Izwan.
LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan gets the ball in the net but his goal is disallowed as Safuwan Baharudin, who fed him the pass, was flagged offside.
One too many subs for turtles?
Terengganu made three substitutions during the match last night, but did they unwittingly make another before the match kicked off?
The team list, signed by both teams' coaches and managers, as well as the match commissioner, indicated Nor Farhan Muhd was supposed to be on the pitch.
However, it was substitute Ahmad Nordin who took to the field during kick-off.
If the change indeed counts as a substitution, then Terengganu would have made one substitution more than the rules allow, and the LionsXII could be awarded the match.
LionsXII manager Visakan Subramanian confirmed he had included this controversial incident when he filed his match report that will be submitted to the Malaysian Super League.
But Terengganu coach Abdul Rahman Ibrahim was confident there was no rule infringement, and said: "We made a change because of injury.
"But that is not considered a substitution, although we would have six players on the bench instead of seven."