Johor's Fandi sinks LionsXII and their coach Fandi
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM 2
(Syafiq Shahrudin 21, Fandi Ahmad 84)
(Hafiz Abu Sujad 51)
Fandi Ahmad rose to the occasion at the Pasir Gudang Stadium in Johor last night.
Unfortunately, for the travelling LionsXII fans, it wasn't the footballing legend who sat on the bench of the Singapore side.
It was a little-known 24-year-old from Johor Darul Ta'zim II.
The substitute delivered the knock-out blow six minutes from times to give JDT II a shock 2-1 victory in the Malaysia Cup Group A match, as the LionsXII now face almost certain elimination from the tournament after just three games.
The Singapore side have just one point from three games, after drawing 0-0 with Felda and losing 2-1 to Pahang in their earlier home matches.
LionsXII coach Fandi, under fire from the media and certain sections of fans for his side's disappointing season in the Malaysian Super League and Cup, declined to speak to The New Paper after the match.
He was also busy pacifying his young charges as they slumped on the sidelines after the defeat.
Though they shook hands with their opponents and coach, no words were exchanged.
Striker Sufian Anuar, devoid of service up front throughout the game, could not hold back the tears.
Even the ever-affable Hafiz Abu Sujad, the team's best player on the night, cut a dejected figure.
It was a similar scene from two years ago, when the LionsXII suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat by ATM FA at the semi-final stage.
"Obviously, we're all very disappointed and a little shocked," Hafiz said.
"We were trying to win this game, and, to do that, we took risks.
"That's how we got caught, on the counter-attack. Johor, like Pahang (last week) took their chances well."
The LionsXII must have smelled blood after just two minutes when Safuwan Baharudin took advantage of some awful defending and headed the ball against the post.
Johor, without star man and Singapore captain Shahril Ishak, looked disorganised and slower to the ball during the early stages, as Safuwan went close again in the fourth minute.
Yet, it was the home side who took the lead in the 21st minute.
Young striker Syafiq Shahrudin raced onto a through-ball from the left, cut past Shakir Hamzah on the edge of the box and fired into the bottom-left corner.
The LionsXII rallied in the second half and a much-needed comeback looked on the cards when Hafiz rammed home a loose ball in the 51st minute, after Johor custodian Anis Faron had spilled a routine catch.
As the visitors ventured forward searching for the winner, they suffered another concentration lapse in the 84th minute.
This time, Syafiq played creator, as he brilliantly fooled Afiq Yunos on the flank before crossing low for Fandi to sweep home.
"Today was supposed to be our turning point. If we had got a win, it would've changed everything," said winger Gabriel Quak, who put in a decent shift after coming on for the off-colour Shahfiq Ghani in the first half.
"At half-time, when we were down a goal, Fandi didn't have to say much.
"In fact, it was the players who did the talking - we were all rallying each other.
"It's not over mathematically, but we have only a very slim chance now.
"We have to get maximum points from our final three games."
In the group's other match, Felda produced a late comeback to shock Pahang 3-2 in Kuantan, leaving the group wide open.
But, even if the LionsXII beat JDT II in the return leg at Jalan Besar on Tuesday, Fandi's fledglings still have it all to do in their final two games away to Pahang (Friday) and Felda (Sept 2).
It was the same thing all over again tonight. We fought and played well, but still can’t get that little dose of luck. But this squad will keep fighting until it’s all over, and it’s not yet.
- LionsXII winger Faris Ramli
- JDT II: Anis Faron, Jose Carrasco, See Kok Luen, Zaquan Adha, Nursalam Zainal Abidin (Fandi Ahmad 76), Aznie Taib (Naim Nazmi 82), Hardy Parsi, Alif Yusof, Che Rashid Che Halim, Syafiq Shahrudin, Akram Manihan (Izuan Jarudin 89)
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6, Shakir Hamzah 6, Afiq Yunos 5.5, Safuwan Bahrudin 6.5, Madhu Mohana 6.5, Isa Halim 5 (Raihan Rahman 64), Faris Ramli 5, Zulfahmi Arifin 6 (Firdaus Kasman 82), Hafiz Abu Sujad 6.5, Shahfiq Ghani 5 (Gabriel Quak 33, 6.5) Sufian Anuar 6
- TNP Man of the Match: Syafiq Shahrudin (JDT II)
- Shots on target: JDT II 5, LionsXII 3
- Shots off target: JDT II 4, LionsXII 6
- Corners: JDT II 5, LionsXII 5
- Yellow cards: JDT II: (Alif Yusof 13th) LionsXII: 4 (Isa Halim 24th)
- Referee: Lismotia Mohem Mohd Tisan
- Crowd: 7,000
- Match Rating: 7/10