Two-goal hero Faris stars for LionsXII
LionsXII starlet finds overdue form to score twice and contribute an assist
(Faris Ramli 4, 83, Khairul Amri 79)
The handful of fans who missed the LionsXII's opening goal at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night would be forgiven because of a shambolic incident just before kick-off.
A minute's silence was to be observed by all in the stadium in respect to the passing of former Football Association of Singapore chairman N Ganesan.
But, barely 15 seconds elapsed before referee Ahmad Zuhaidi blew his whistle.
That sparked boos from the 2,800 or so fans, who were still shaking their heads and hurling abuse at the referee up until the fourth minute.
Thereafter, it was the Faris Ramli show.
The 22-year-old was first to the rebound after Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat could only palm away Safuwan Baharudin's low drive.
With only his second touch of the game, Faris finished coolly into the bottom corner.
The goal set the LionsXII on their way to a solid 3-0 win over Kelantan last night.
After their agonising Malaysian FA Cup final defeat by the LionsXII in May, Kelantan were expected to try and exact revenge against Fandi Ahmad's charges.
But the Red Warriors were helpless in the second half against a dominant LionsXII team, spurred on by the brilliance of Faris and playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman, who made his first start in seven months since breaking his ankle in the AFF Suzuki Cup last November.
Kelantan must surely hate the sight of Faris.
The winger has notched four goals in the past four games against the Malaysian team, including two last night.
"I'm not too sure what it is about Kelantan," said Faris with a laugh after the match.
"But, every time I see Khairul Fahmi, I just feel lucky against him."
On his stellar performance, Faris admitted that he hadn't played this well in a long time.
After a disappointing South-east Asia (SEA) Games outing last month, when he failed to lead the Singapore Under-23s past the group stage, Faris shrugged aside his recent struggle with fatigue to lead the LionsXII from the front.
He set up Khairul Amri's strike in the 79th minute, and finished off a delightful one-two with Shahdan four minutes later.
"My mind was so relaxed before the match, because I didn't expect to start the game (because of a strain)," Faris said.
"At first, coach Fandi told me I would play just the second half but, in the end, he told me to start. That made me real eager to play.
"The early goal helped; not just me, but the team as well. After that, the pressure was off and we could play our normal attacking game."
Fandi praised his side's performance during the post-match press conference.
"It was fantastic from start to end, although at one point I was getting worried because at 1-0, we missed a lot of chances to kill off the game," he said.
"It doesn't matter who the Man of the Match for me is, but Faris was really good. "After a tough SEA Games and struggling with fatigue, he did well to score two. He opened up the Kelantan defence and won free-kicks in dangerous areas.
"Shahdan is only at 75 per cent right now, but he put in a fantastic effort and I'm happy he lasted the full 90 minutes.
"He needs to get stronger and fitter because we have a tough month of August (seven games in 20 days) coming up."
"We played one of our best games. The team are improving during this month of Ramadan. I told the boys to put aside the FA Cup success because there are still a lot of matches to play."
- LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad
- Felda 2 Sime Darby 2
- Johor DT 2 PDRM 1
- Perak 2 ATM 1
- Selangor 1 Pahang 3
- Terengganu 4 Sarawak 2
LIONSXII vs KELANTAN
1 Offsides 0
7 Corners 3
20 Total Shots 11
11 On Target 3
9 Off Target 8
0 Yellow cards 4
55% Possession 45%
TEAMS & PLAYERS' RATINGS
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 7.5 (Khairulhin Khalid 90), Madhu Mohana 7, Hafiz Abu Sujad 7, Nazrul Nazari 7, Shakir Hamzah 7, Izzdin Shafiq 8, Shahdan Sulaiman 8.5, Faris Ramli 9, Khairul Amri 7.5 (Sufian Anuar 90), Safuwan Baharudin 8, Gabriel Quak 7 (Christopher van Huizen 78)
- KELANTAN: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Norhafiz Zamani, Fitri Omar, Shahrul Azim, Farisham Ismail, Wan Zaharulnizam, Erwin Carrillo (Khairul Izuan 85), Nor Farhan Muhammad (Gilmar Filho 68), Wan Zack Haikal, Amiridzwan Tajudin, Iwuji Amamchi.
- Attendance: 2,800
- Referee: Ahmad Zuhaidi
- Rating: 8/10
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH
FARIS RAMLI (above)
An outstanding performance from the tricky winger right from the fourth minute when he scored the game's opener with a cool finish. Faris tormented the Kelantan defence throughout the match, creating openings, winning free-kicks, and scoring twice for a solid LionsXII victory.
BLOW BY BLOW
Gabriel Quak comes close after latching onto Hafiz Abu Sujad's cutback but Khairul Fahmi pulls off a superb save.
Goal! Faris Ramli gives the LionsXII the lead, finding the net after Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi had spilled Safuwan Baharudin's effort.
Big scare for the LionsXII, as Kelantan striker Iwuji Amamchi crashes into Izwan Mahbud at the edge of the box.
Goal! Khairul Amri doubles the LionsXII's lead, finishing off a counter-attack with Faris supplying the killer pass.
Game, set and match. An intricate passing movement from the LionsXII sees Faris play a delightful one-two with Shahdan Sulaiman, who backheels the ball for the flying winger to complete his double.