Sufian's 15-min show
Substitute ends four-month goal drought as Fandi's men bounce back in style
(Safuwan Baharudin 29, Sufian Anuar 79, 90+2, 90+4)
(Damion Stewart 8)
Some of the players raised their hands to the heavens and others roared in delight when they heard referee Syed Azhar Syed Kamar blow the final whistle.
Minutes later, each member of the LionsXII squad waited on the sidelines, waiting to congratulate goal hero Sufian Anuar with either a hug or a high-five.
Much later, well after the side's 4-1 victory over Malaysian Super League (MSL) leaders Pahang at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, supersub Sufian was talking to The New Paper alongside the team bus when coach Fandi Ahmad tapped him on the back.
"Well done lah, hero," Fandi said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Sufian was the toast of the LionsXII, after firing in three goals in the final 15 minutes to floor the Malaysian east coast giants and blow much needed wind in the sails of Fandi's side, after the shock 1-0 loss to lowly Sime Darby at home on Saturday.
For Sufian, it was much-needed relief after a frustrating four months without a goal.
Seconds after coming as a replacement for the luckless Khairul Nizam, who suffered yet another injury, it appeared the striker's nightmare season would continue.
Unmarked in the box, he ballooned a glorious chance in the 58th minute.
At that moment, Sufian was thinking: "Oh no, not again."
"It's been such a long time since I scored a goal, I was starting to get real frustrated," said the 27-year-old.
"Finally, man. I thank god for this moment. He gave me the rezeki (luck in Malay) tonight - three times."
Things weren't looking too rosy for the LionsXII inside the first 25 minutes.
Trailing 1-0 to a set-piece goal by Pahang defender Damion Stewart, the Singapore side looked toothless in attack, much like they did on Saturday.
It wasn't until captain Safuwan Baharudin's equaliser that the team played with confidence.
The home side made a decent start to the second half, and when Sufian scored his first - touching home Khairul Amri's deflected shot - the LionsXII never looked back.
Fandi's men capitalised on the counter-attack and Sufian capped the win with another two goals in injury time.
"Amri set up two of my goals. Without him and my teammates, I wouldn't have scored," Sufian said. "I just hope my performance continues to improve. I hope the fans give me and the team support instead of criticism."
Despite Sufian's hat-trick, Fandi (left), 51, said he has not decided on who will start alongside Amri in attack against Selangor on Saturday.
The MSL champions will leave for Shah Alam on Friday and will be without defender Faritz Hameed, who is suspended after picking up his third yellow card of the season last night.
"We will look at Nizam's condition before deciding," Fandi said. "I think you saw 100 per cent effort from every player tonight. Before, that wasn't the case.
"We deserved this win. We fought back from a goal down, piled on the pressure and I'm really relieved that we found our scoring touch again."
I’m really happy for Sufian. Everyone can see that he’s one of the hardest workers in the team. He really deserved the hat-trick.
— LionsXII striker Khairul Amri paying tribute to Sufian Anuar, after his heroics last night against Pahang
- SHOTS: LionsXII 5 on target, 9 off target; Pahang 7 on target, 4 off target
- CORNERS: LionsXII 4 Pahang 6
- YELLOW CARDS: LionsXII 1 (Faritz Hameed 65th) Pahang 3
- ATTENDANCE: 6,128
- MATCH RATING: 7/10
- REFEREE: Syed Azhar Syed Kamar 5/10
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 8, Faritz Hameed 7, Shakir Hamzah 7, Safuwan Baharudin 7.5, Madhu Mohana 7, Afiq Yunos 6.5, Raihan Rahman 6.5 (Aqhari Abdullah 21, 7), Hafiz Abu Sujad 6.5, Faris Ramli 7, Khairul Amri 8, Khairul Nizam 6.5 (Sufian Anuar, 57, 8)
- PAHANG: Khairul Azhan, Damion Stewart, Zesh Rehman (Matias Conti 61), Azidan Sarudin, Dickson Nwakaeme, Azammuddin Akil (R Surendran 55), Razman Roslan, Fauzi Roslan, Shahrizan Salleh, Hafiz Kamal (Faizol Hussain 69), R Gopinathan
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Sufian Anuar
LAST NIGHT'S OTHER RESULTS
- PKNS 2 Terengganu 2
- Sime Darby 4 Kelantan 0
- Perak 0 Johor Darul Ta'zim 1
- Sarawak 3 ATM 2
BLOW BY BLOW
4 GOAL! Pahang’s Azidan Sarudin delivers a free-kick after Madhu Mohana’s foul, and Damion Stewart creeps in between the LionsXII defenders to head home.
29 GOAL! 1-1! Hafiz Sujad’s corner is parried by Khairul Azhan but the ball falls to Safuwan Baharudin who sends it to the right corner.
51 Faritz Hameed is clear on goal after a pass from Faris Ramli. He beats Azhan but the angle is too tight and he can only put it into the side netting.
79 GOAL! LionsXII 2-1! Khairul Amri’s shot is deflected and falls to Sufian Anuar who forces it in.
90 +2 GOAL! LionsXII 3-1! Amri crosses to Sufian, who takes a shot but it’s parried by Azhan. Sufian follows up and strokes the ball into the back of the net. GOAL! LionsXII 4-1! Amri’s
90 +4 GOAL! LionsXII 4-1! Amri’s effort is saved by Azhan but it falls again to Sufian, who completes his hat-trick right in front of goal.
BLOW BY BLOW
GOAL! Pahang's Azidan Sarudin delivers a free-kick after Madhu Mohana's foul, and Damion Stewart creeps in between the LionsXII defenders to head home.
GOAL! 1-1! Hafiz Sujad's corner is parried by Khairul Azhan but the ball falls to Safuwan Baharudin who sends it to the right corner.
Faritz Hameed is clear on goal after a pass from Faris Ramli. He beats Azhan but the angle is too tight and he can only put it into the side netting.
GOAL! LionsXII 2-1! Khairul Amri's shot is deflected and falls to Sufian Anuar who forces it in.
GOAL! LionsXII 3-1! Amri crosses to Sufian, who takes a shot but it's parried by Azhan. Sufian follows up and strokes the ball into the back of the net.
GOAL! LionsXII 4-1! Amri's effort is saved by Azhan but it falls again to Sufian, who completes his hat-trick right in front of goal.