Izwan earns LionsXII a valuable point
LionsXII captain produces a goalkeeping masterclass to help his side earn a valuable point
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM 0
With Isa Halim fighting for his place in the starting 11 and Safuwan Baharudin on loan at Melbourne City, Izwan Mahbud has had to fill the captaincy void for the LionsXII.
Last night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the 24-year-old justified coach Fandi Ahmad's faith in him by producing a goalkeeping masterclass to help the Singaporean outfit to a 0-0 draw with big-spending Johor Darul Ta'zim.
Even JDT boss Bojan Hodak was effusive in his praise of the goalkeeper, declaring he was "definitely the man of the match" and Fandi admitted his display had been crucial in them claiming a valuable point.
"I think Izwan did a fantastic job," he said.
"We have to admit that Johor did dominate and you can see they are a class above us with some technically good players, but Izwan was a key factor in the result.
"I thought the players showed great determination, they gave 200 per cent and I can't ask for more from them.
"A point is as good as a win for us tonight."
While Izwan was indeed the LionsXII's main man last night, others like Zulfahmi Arifin and Raihan Rahman also played pivotal roles in a spirited display which was ultimately enough for a share of the spoils against a JDT side who have yet to fire on all cylinders this season.
Still, the visitors dominated proceedings from the opening whistle and first threatened after 10 minutes, when Safiq Rahim's free-kick was glanced towards goal by Hariss Harun, only for Izwan to react in time and push it wide.
From the resultant corner, Alhaji Kamara had a header hacked off the line by Firdaus Kasman, before Izwan was called into action again in the 19th minute when he tipped over Patito Rodriguez's looping effort.
The custodian continued to thwart the opposition and raced off his line quickly to deny Kamara in a one-on-one situation two minutes later.
JUST IN TIME
When he was finally beaten by the Sierra Leonean six minutes before the break, Hafiz Abu Sujad came to the rescue as he raced back in time to clear the ball off the line.
The onslaught continued in the second half and, when Izwan was not being a thorn in their flesh, JDT shot themselves in the foot too, as Kamara spurned a host of excellent opportunities.
The 20-year-old, on loan from Swedish outfit IFK Norrkoping, somehow fired into the side-netting after breaking free inside the box eight minutes after the break.
He did hit the target in the 79th minute with a low drive - only to see Izwan keep it out with his right foot.
Kamara had one final chance to win it for JDT eight minutes from time.
Again, he found himself unmarked after a lovely slide-rule pass from Patito, but the LionsXII custodian denied him once more in a one-on-one to help his side hold out for the draw.
Still, despite the plaudits coming his way, the humble and soft-spoken Izwan insists he could not have done it without his teammates.
"Of course, I'm very happy with the clean sheet but everyone contributed to this result," he told the New Paper.
"There is the added responsibility when I've been given the armband but I don't think much has changed.
"Regardless of who is captain, everyone fights for each other on the field and I had full confidence we would last the 90 minutes.
"Hopefully, this morale-boosting result can be the start of a change in our fortunes."
Safiq Rahim thumps in a sublime free-kick for Hariss Harun to nod in, but Izwan is equal to it.
Hariss sprays the ball to Amri Yahyah, who crosses in for Alhaji Kamara, but his poor shot is cleared off the line by Hafiz Abu Sujad.
Izzdin Shafiq plays a through- ball to Faris Ramli, who twists past his marker to shoot, but his strike sails wide.
Sahil Suhaimi lines up a free-kick from 20m out, but his effort grazes the top of the post.
Alhaji Kamara races past Madhu Mohana, but his low shot is tipped away by Izwan's foot.
Patito Rodriguez lays the ball off for Kamara, but Izwan blocks his shot.
TEAMS & PLAYERS' RATINGS
- LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud 8.5, Faritz Hameed 6.5, Madhu Mohana 7, Zulfahmi Arifin 7.5, Hafiz Abu Sujad 7.5, Raihan Rahman 7.5, Izzdin Shafiq 7, Firdaus Kasman 6.5 (Sahil Suhaimi 58, 6), Nazrul Nazari 6 (Gabriel Quak 62, 6.5), Faris Ramli 6.5, Khairul Nizam 6.5 (Sufian Anuar 82).
- JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM: Farizal Marlias, S Kunanlan, Junior Eldstal, Fadhli Shas, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Hariss Harun, Shakir Shaari (Gary Robbat 57), Safiq Rahim, Amri Yahyah (S Chanturu 80), Patito Rodriguez, Alhaji Kamara.
Referee: Suhaizi Shukri
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: IZWAN MAHBUD
Coming up against some of the MSL's most-dangerous players, Izwan showed no fear as he denied the opponents time and time again. Be it reflex saves, one-on-one stops or claiming high balls with authority, the 24-year-old had it all covered throughout the 90 minutes