LionsXII good in attack, but defensive woes continue
PERAK FA 2
(Charles Souza Chad 26, Nam Kung Woong 47)
(Khairul Amri 4, Firdaus Kasman 69)
It didn't matter to him that it was on his weaker left foot, LionsXII midfielder Firdaus Kasman had only one thought when the ball dropped to him in the 69th minute of his team's Malaysian Super League (MSL) match against Perak FA in Ipoh last night: SHOOT.
Well outside the penalty box, the 27-year-old let rip a thumping volley which arrowed into goal, leaving Perak goalkeeper Zamir Selamat clutching thin air.
The stunning strike rescued the game for the LionsXII, who had led after a great Khairul Amri effort early on only to trail after conceding two poor goals.
Perak coach M Karathu, though, was less impressed with the second-half equaliser.
"My defence was unsettled," said the 71-year-old, after the game.
"We had three defenders standing there, while one player (Firdaus) scored the goal. They should have intercepted the ball."
Karathu wasn't the only coach who was unhappy with the defending on the night.
While Fandi Ahmad would have been delighted over the way the LionsXII bared their teeth away from home with two stunning goals, his side's troubles at the back must be increasingly worrying.
POOR DEFENSIVE RECORD
After last night, the LionsXII have the joint-worst defensive record in the MSL, shipping in seven goals in just three matches.
Said Fandi: "We deserved the point.
"But it's important we go back and check our defensive duties during set-pieces, and I think we have to focus a lot more on that."
Things had looked so bright for the LionsXII. They took the lead after just four minutes when Amri put an emphatic finishing touch to a move he started.
But the central defensive partnership of Madhu Mohana and Afiq Yunos, who used to play second fiddle to Safuwan Baharudin (now at A-League team Melbourne City) and Baihakki Khaizan (now at Johor Darul Ta'zim II) could not cope with Perak's foreign imports.
First, Afiq committed a silly foul near his own corner flag in the 26th minute and Perak's Brazilian striker Charles Souza Chad stole in at the far post to bundle the ensuing free-kick home.
It was the third consecutive set-piece goal the LionsXII conceded, following two in last Sunday's 2-0 defeat by Kelantan in Kota Baru.
Things got worse for Fandi's men when South Korean forward Nam Kung Woong put the home side ahead just two minutes after the break, ghosting in behind Madhu to head home, with Izwan only able to parry the effort into goal.
However, the highlight of the night was Firdaus' brilliant volley on 69 minutes.
The midfielder, brought on in place of Zulfahmi Arifin, showed strength to hold off Perak defender Thiago Junio for a high ball, and, after the Brazilian botched his clearance, Firdaus let rip with his weaker left foot.
The LionsXII could have pinched the three points right at the end when Amri's goalbound shot flashed past a rooted Zamir, only to strike Junio's body.
- PERAK: Zamir Selamat, Tuah Iskandar, Idris Ahmad, Thiago Junio, Arif Ismail, Fikri Sudin (Ridzuan Azly 70), Syazwan Roslan, Nasir Basharuddin, Nurridzuan Abu Hassan, Nam Kung Woong (Haris Safwan 77), Charles Souza Chad
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari 6, Madhu Mohana 5.5, Afiq Yunos 5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6 (Wahyudi Wahid 66), Isa Halim 6.5 (Sahil Suhaimi 57, 6), Zulfahmi Arifin 6.5 (Firdaus Kasman 50, 7), Izzdin Shafiq 7, Gabriel Quak 6, Khairul Amri 7.5, Faris Ramli 7.
- SHOTS: Perak 7 on 5 off; LionsXII 6 on, 4 off
- CORNERS: Perak 6, LionsXII 6
- OFFSIDES: Perak 1, LionsXII 0
- YELLOW CARDS: Perak 1 (Tuah Iskandar), LionsXII 3 (Hafiz Abu Sujad, Madhu Mohana, Khairul Amri)
- ATTENDANCE: 40,000
- MATCH RATING: 8/10
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Khairul Amri (LionsXII)
- Felda 2 ATM FA 1
- Kelantan 0 PDRM 4
- Sarawak 0 Pahang 0
- Selangor 1 Johor DT 1
- Terengganu 2 Sime Darby 1