Victory for LionsXII
The LionsXII made history at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night, when they beat Kelantan 3-1 to become the first foreign side to be crowned champions of the Malaysian FA Cup.
Fandi Ahmad's charges looked edgy from the start, but took just seven minutes to silence the partisan crowd.
Midfielder Izzdin Shafiq set Faris Ramli free with a peach of a cross-field pass that caught the Kelantan defence napping, and the fleet-footed winger did not miss a step.
He took the ball down, zipped past the onrushing Khairul Fahmie in the Kelantan goal and coolly slotted home.
Kelantan mounted wave after wave of attacks, but poor finishing proved to be their undoing.
Their foreign duo of Gilmar da Silva and Erwin Carillo were the biggest culprits as they fluffed chance after chance.
The Red Warriors mustered 12 efforts on goal to the LionsXII four, in a frenetic first half.
The compact LionsXII defence, led from the front by striker Khairul Amri who was clearly fired up for the occasion, along with Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq in the engine room.
The backline was exposed on few occasions but, even then, Kelantan found LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud in top form.
The impressive Wan Zack Haikal finally found a way past a very resolute LionsXII backline, poking home from inside the box, after being set free by a lofted pass from da Silva.
The relentless red onslaught continued, but the Singapore side, playing in their first cup final since their 2012 inception, dug deep and found steel.
Substitute Sahil Suhaimi picked the pocket of Kelantan fullback Nik Shahrul in the 81st minute, raced to the top of the box and fired a bullet into the bottom corner to put the LionsXII 2-1 up.
The striker then earned an injury-time penalty off Kelantan's Amirizwan Taj, and slammed home the spot-kick himself to seal the win for his team.
As referee Zamzaidi Katimin blew his whistle to end the game, the LionsXII dropped their knees to the turf and raised their fists into the Kuala Lumpur sky.
Read the full report in our print edition on May 24.
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