LionsXII need a miracle in Malaysia Cup
(Hafiz Abu Sujad 1, Faris Ramli 84)
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II 2
(Yusof Abidin 10, Akmal Ishak 65)
Beleaguered LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad ended his post-match press conference by saying: "Just pray for us, we'll continue to work hard. We won't give up hope just yet."
After being held 2-2 at home by Johor Darul Ta'zim II last night in front of 4,026 fans, the LionsXII now need a miracle to qualify for the quarter-finals as they are five points behind second-placed Felda United in Group A with two games to go.
The only way for the LionsXII to progress is to beat Pahang in Kuantan on Friday and then Felda United in Selayang next Tuesday - a tall order, considering they couldn't muster a win at Jalan Besar this Malaysia Cup - and hope results elsewhere go their way too.
Lack of luck, no penalties, near-misses and big slices of fortune for the opponents - this has been pretty much the story of the LionsXII this season.
The hosts took all of just 30 seconds to issue their statement of intent when Nazrul Nazari and Khairul Nizam - two of Fandi's changes from last Saturday's 2-1 defeat - combined to set up Hafiz Abu Sujad's opener.
But, instead of a rout, it roused JDT II into action.
Aznie Taib attempted to volley See Kok Luen's cross but sliced it perfectly for Yusof Abidin to bury the ball past Izwan Mahbud after 10 minutes.
With the LionsXII desperately trying to find the lead again in the second half, Akmal Ishak finished off a lightning-quick counter with a header from Syafiq Shahruddin's well-weighted cross in the 65th minute.
Faris Ramli immediately added more cutting edge after coming on in the 53rd minute, and looked to have won a penalty after being brought down by Zulfadhli Mohamed in the 82nd minute.
Referee Samsudin Ibrahim pointed to the spot and booked the JDT II goalkeeper.
But he reversed his decision after seeing his assistant's raised flag, leading Fandi to comment: "I don't know what a penalty is any more. We should have had 13 penalties this season, but we had none."
Faris did get the goal he deserved two minutes later when his shot was fumbled by Zulfadhli.
However, the story of the LionsXII's season will also have to include chapter after chapter of poor finishing, misplaced passes, hopeful punts and poor decision-making - things coaches Fandi and Nazri Nasir have bemoaned throughout.
JDT II coach Azmi Mohd also felt his opponents were too predictable with their long balls.
Shahfiq Ghani had a one-on-one against Zulfadhli in the 54th minute, but lacked confidence and imagination to make the most out of it.
In the dying minutes, Zulfahmi Arifin played his long balls straight out to touch.
And Safuwan Baharudin, though it would be unfair to ask a defender to always be a match-winner, fired wide in the 88th minute and was booked in injury time to be ruled out of the next match.
Afiq Yunos would also miss the Pahang game through suspension, though Baihakki Khaizan and Madhu Mohana could return to the fray.
Right back Raihan Rahman was at a loss for words at how they threw everything at the opponents but just can't seem to find a win in this competition.
He said: "We didn't do well in the league, so we thought we would do better in the Malaysia Cup, even though we had limited time to train together because of national-team commitments.
"With all our effort, we don't deserve to be in the position we are in.
"We are as disappointed as anyone else but we have got to stay united like a family now and continue to give our best.
"It would be difficult to qualify now. But we will still give 100 per cent to try to win our last two matches."
Vice-captain Safuwan added: "We have to play for our own future now. Football is unpredictable, sometimes it's also about how we move on from tough times."
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 6.5, Raihan Rahman 6, Safuwan Baharudin 6.5, Afiq Yunos 6, Shakir Hamzah 6 (Gabriel Quak 67), Nazrul Ahmad Nazari 6.5 (Faris Ramli 53) 7, Zulfahmi Arifin 6, Isa Halim 6, Hafiz Abu Sujad 6.5, Shahfiq Ghani 6, Khairul Nizam 6.5 (Sufian Anuar 46, 6)
- JDT II: Zulfadhli Mohd, Hardy Parsi (Che Rashid Che Halim 73), Jose Manuel Carrasco, Nicolas Delmonte, Alif Yusof, Zaquan Adha, Akram Mahinan, See Kok Luen, Aznie Taib (Fandi Ahmad 77), Yusof Abidin (Akmal Ishak 20), Syafiq Shahruddin
- Shots: LionsXII 6 on target, 9 off target, JDT II 5 on target, 5 off target
- Corners: LionsXII 6, JDT II 1
- Yellow cards: LionsXII 3 (Afiq Yunos, Gabriel Quak, Safuwan Baharudin), JDT II 2
- Offsides: LionsXII 1, JDT II 4
- Attendance: 4,026
- Match rating: 6.5/10
- Referee: Samsudin Ibrahim 4/10
- TNP Man of the Match: FARIS RAMLI
- Felda 0 Pahang 2
- Johor DT 5 Penang 0
- Kelantan 1 ATM 2
- Kedah v Sarawak
- Perak v Terengganu
- Selangor v Sime Darby
- T-Team v PDRM
Sarawak tell Perak fans to stay away
Fans of Perak have been asked to stay away from their next Malaysia Cup meeting with Sarawak on Saturday after allegation of racism during their match in Ipoh last Wednesday.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) is investigating the accusations by Sarawak that their players were abused by one of the Perak team officials.
The team also claimed the home fans targeted their winger S Chanturu in the Malaysian Cup Group B match won 2-0 by Perak.
Sarawak FA secretary Abdullah Julaihi was quoted as saying by yesterday's New Straits Times: "We want to avoid untoward incidents as this matter is still hot among fans.
"The recent postings on social media, including Facebook, have also increased tension.
"We will neither allocate tickets to Perak nor provide seats on match day."
However, FAM secretary Hamidin Amin, while confirming the investigation, stressed the home team were required to sell tickets to away fans. - Reuters.