Finally, LionsXII get their first away victory
LionsXII dig deep for first away victory of the season
SIME DARBY 1
(Fahrul Razi 24)
(Firdaus Kasman 58, Gabriel Quak 68)
They had to do without the returning Safuwan Baharudin who was deemed still unfit to start, then lost forward Khairul Nizam to a hamstring strain even before the first whistle at the Selayang Stadium last night.
But Fandi Ahmad's LionsXII dug deep and found just enough in their tanks to scrape past Sime Darby, coming from behind to win 2-1 in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).
It was the Singapore side's first away victory of the season - over the still-winless Sime Darby marooned at the bottom of the 12-team league.
But Fandi looked more relieved than overjoyed as he walked into the press conference after the game, and for good reason.
The visitors were pegged back in what was a placid first half that saw Sime Darby dominate proceedings with Reinaldo da Costa a constant thorn in the side of the LionsXII's makeshift central defensive partnership of Izzdin Shafiq and Zulfahmi Arifin - both midfielders by trade.
The dour affair was lit up by a peach of a goal from Sime Darby's Fahrul Razi.
Izwan Mahbud did well, rushing out of his penalty box to head a dangerous lofted through-ball clear in the 24th minute.
But the ball fell to a well-placed Fahrul and the Sime Darby No. 7 scored with an exquisite lobbed volley that kissed the crossbar before dropping into goal.
But the visitors came out with guns blazing in the second period.
A Firdaus Kasman 58th-minute volley struck from the top of the box, and a Gabriel Quak shot from the from a similar position 10 minutes later, saw the LionsXII escape from Selayang with a much-needed three points.
"To be frank, we were really under-strength, we lost players right down the spine of the team, and even though Isa Halim came in to give us some extra strength and bite in the midfield, we were pushed to the limit," said Fandi.
The coach also had to contend with the absence of four players - including Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi - to the South-east Asia Games squad who started centralised training last Friday.
"We weren't allowed to settle with all (Sime Darby's) high balls in the first half, with Reinaldo giving us problems.
"Before the game we were determined not to be Sime Darby's first victims this season, and it was a great fightback from the boys."
But it is the FA Cup competition, not the league, that now takes centre stage.
Fandi's charges face Terengganu in the first leg of the semi-finals next Saturday.
"Everybody chipped in for this result, our first away win (in the league) this year, and the boys fully deserved it," he said.
"I hope we can carry this through to the semis, hopefully we get Safuwan ready for that, and the boys in the SEA Games squad.
"I'm just happy for the boys, we've been under a lot of pressure before the game."
"Before the game we were determined not to be Sime Darby’s first victims this season, and it was a great fightback from the boys."
- LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad
"We played well in the first half, created a lot of chances, but didn’t convert enough and put ourselves under pressure. The LionsXII took their chances."
- Sime Darby coach Ismail Zakaria
- ATM 3 PDRM 1
- Pahang 3 Terengganu 2
- Sarawak 3 Kelantan 2
- Selangor 1 Perak 2
2 Offsides 1
5 Corners 7
9 Total Shots 7
7 On Target 5
2 Off Target 2
3 Yellow cards 1
TEAMS & MATCH RATING
- SIME DARBY: Kamarul Effandi, Juzaili Samion, Rafizi Hamdan (Nur Areef Kamaruddin 14), Ivan Dragicevic, Khairul Anuar, Fadzli Shaari, Qayyum Ubaidillah, Fahrul Razi, Abdul Halim Zainal, Firdaus Azizul (Nemanja Vidakovic 63), Reinaldo da Costa
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Raihan Rahman, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Nazrul Nazari (Syafiq Zainal 73), Firdaus Kasman, Isa Halim, Gabriel Quak, Sufian Anuar (Shahdan Sulaiman 90+3), Khairul Amri
- Attendance: 101
- Referee: Lismotiw Mohem 6.5/10
- Rating: 6.5/10
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH
Blow by blow
7 Sime Darby hitman Reinaldo da Costa gets behind the LionsXII defence, but his half-volley flies just over the bar.
24 Goal! Sime Darby 1-0. Izwan Mahbud charges out to make a headed clearance, but Fahrul Razi's lobs the ball in off the crossbar from 35 metres.
58 Goal! 1-1. Firdaus Kasman's majestic volley loops over Sime Darby goalkeeper Kamarul Effandi and into the top corner. Game on.
68 Goal! LionsXII 2-1. The comeback is complete. Gabriel Quak pounces on a loose clearance and slams the ball into the net.
71 Quak's whipped free-kick across the goal is met by Amri, but he contrives to miss from close range.