WORRY FOR WOUNDED SAFUWAN
(Sufian Anuar 28, Gabriel Quak 53, Faris Ramli 90+3)
His team had just recorded their first competitive win under his charge, scoring three goals in a comfortable Malaysia FA Cup first-round victory over DRB-Hicom, and recording a clean sheet as well.
But, mixed with relief and joy, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad was a worried man.
After completing post-match press conference formalities, the 51-year-old hurried over to the dressing room to check on his injured vice-captain Safuwan Baharudin.
"I hope it is not serious, because we need him against Selangor," Fandi told The New Paper, as he looked ahead to Saturday's fiery Malaysian Super League clash against Selangor at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Earlier in the match, the 22-year-old centre back had crashed to the Bishan Stadium turf following an innocuous 68th-minute tackle, curled up in pain and furiously signalled for medical attention.
To compound matters, as Safuwan was brought off and replaced by Madhu Mohana, he was dropped by the stretcher bearers in full view of the 3,080 fans and had to be attended by a doctor on the track.
"I think it was knee-on-knee and I felt a terrible pain," said Safuwan.
"Then I blacked out for a while when I was dropped from the stretcher.
"As of now, it still feels sore and like something is wrong, but there's no swelling.
"We'll have to see tomorrow how it is, but I'm hoping it's nothing serious."
Safuwan had been key in shutting out DRB-Hicom's dangerous Nigerian striker Ogunboye Iyanu, and the LionsXII, who will face Pahang in the next round, will need him fit to neutralise Selangor hitman Paulo Rangel on Saturday.
But, at least on the business end of the pitch, the hosts finally showed they have goals in them as an inspired Sufian Anuar led the way with the opener and two assists.
The 26-year-old striker seized on a defensive mix-up in the 28th minute to slot beyond Mohd Jibrail before unselfishly setting up substitute Gabriel Quak for an open goal eight minutes after the break.
Three minutes into added time, Faris Ramli scored from a tight angle after Sufian's shot was parried by Jibrail.
Fandi said: "It's a big morale-booster for our strikers and midfielders to create and score three goals ahead of the Selangor game.
"Sufian worked his socks off and I'm so happy he scored.
"We showed good pace and width on the flanks with Gabriel and Faris, and could have opened up their defence even more if not for the bumpy pitch.
"Our boys showed character even with the hard tackles and a lenient referee.
"I thought our backline did very well against a big striker."
l Malacca 1 Perlis 2
l Pahang UiTM 2 T-Team 3
l PDRM FA 1 SPA 0
l Sime Darby 2 ATM 1
l Kuala Lumpur 0 Kedah 4
l Kuantan 0 Sabah 1
l Negeri Sembilan 0 FELDA 1
l PBAPP 2 Cebagoo 0
l Perak 2 Pahang 2 (Pahang win 5-4 on penalties)
l PKNS FC 3 Johor Darul Ta'zim II 2
l Sarawak 2 Penang 1 (after extra time)
l Terengganu 4 Shahzan Muda 0
l Shots: LionsXII - 4 on target, 3 off target; DRB-Hicom - 3 on target, 7 off target
l Corners: LionsXII 5, DRB-Hicom 4
l Offsides: LionsXII 7, DRB-Hicom 5
l Yellow cards: LionsXII 1 (Hafiz Abu Sujad), DRB-Hicom 0
l Attendance: 3,080
l Match rating: 7.5/10
l Referee: P Jeevanathan 5.5/10
l TNP Man of the Match: Sufian Anuar
l LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 7, Faritz Abdul Hameed 6.5 (Raihan Rahman 76), Afiq Yunos 7, Safuwan Baharudin 7 (Madhu Mohana 70), Shakir Hamzah 7, Isa Halim 7.5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 7, Syafiq Zainal 6 (Gabriel Quak 46) 7, Zulfahmi Arifin 7, Faris Ramli 7.5, Sufian Anuar 7.5
l DRB-HICOM: Mohd Jibrail, Khairul Naim, Ahmad Faizal, Abdullah Yusoff, Sunarai Raffi, Mohd Aris Mohd Hafizi 60), Mohd Razif (Mohd Syazmin 85), Ashadi Yusoff (Atapa Kazem 60), Khairul Anuar, Mohd Fakhrullah, Ogunboye Iyanu
MALAYSIA FA CUP