Jalan Besar Stadium, Saturday, June 16, 2012 — The Singapore LionsXII recorded the largest scoreline of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) season with a 9-0 walloping of Sabah. Ironically, they did so in front of just 6,289 fans, the lowest home crowd of the season.
LionsXII started with an attacking 4-4-1-1 formation with Agu Casmir leading the front line and Shahdan Sulaiman playing just behind him. They were supported on the wings by Irwan Shah and Juma’at Jantan playing left and right midfield respectively.
LionsXII were more aggressive with the ball, and Irwan was getting into good positions, but the young midfielder was being very wasteful with his final ball. He seemed to be uncomfortable playing higher up the pitch than his natural position as a defender. Despite this, it did not hurt the LionsXII as Sabah were terrible as a defensive unit, constantly giving Irwan and Juma’at all the time and space in the world to dominate the flanks.
In the 9th minute, Juma’at skilfully nutmegged a Sabah player with a pass to Agu Casmir, who got away from his marker to drive the ball dangerously across the Sabah goal. It left the Sabah defence scrambling to clear the ball and it was finally held in the grateful arms of their goalkeeper.
In the 17th minute, Irwan had two chances within 30 seconds to make it 1-0 but he completely mistimed his header and then shot off target when left unmarked.
The LionsXII put Sabah under heavy pressure, forcing them to concede more and more fouls and corners. Baihakki had tested the keeper twice from two set-pieces before Agu Casmir finally opened the scoring in the 19th minute. From a short corner, Juma’at’s cross was headed onto the ground by Baihakki for Agu to tap it into the empty net to open the scoring.
Sabah did not seem to learn from their earlier defensive mistakes in a set-piece situation and three minutes later, deputy captain Hariss Harun scored his first goal of the night with a volley after Baihakki’s miskick fell kindly in front of him.
Madhu then somehow missed his header from a yard out when found by another pin-point cross from Shahdan Sulaiman but it did not matter as Hariss scored his second goal of the night in the 41st minute. Juma’at released Agu Casmir, who then squared the ball for Hariss to run onto. Hariss breezed past his marker and coolly slotted the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper into the bottom corner of the net.
At the stroke of halftime, Sabah thought they got a consolation goal but it was chalked off as LionsXII goalkeeper Hyrulnizam was judged to have been fouled during the buildup to the goal. At half time, LionsXII led 3-0.
The LionsXII continued to dominate the proceedings in the second half. They were better in possession, while Sabah were not as composed and often lost the ball as soon as they got possession.
Shahdan Sulaiman then got onto the scoresheet in the 61st minute when he lobbed the goalkeeper from inside the penalty box. It was a stunning piece of skill which typified his class as a player. Agu was running at the flanks and picked out Shahdan with a difficult lobbed pass. Shahdan calmly chested the ball before lobbing it over the head of the Sabah goalkeeper.
Shahdan then scored his second goal of the night five minutes later when he completed a brilliant LionsXII counter attack by tapping Juma’at’s square pass into the back of the net. LionsXII had now equaled their highest ever score of 5-0, yet it was still only the 66th minute.
Irwan Shah then made it 6-0 when Agu found him with a cross. Irwan managed to deflect his own right footed shot with his left foot to leave the goalkeeper on his bum in confusion.
Stand-in captain Hariss then completed his hat-trick in the 71st minute as he danced into the box before slamming it past the goalkeeper from two yards out in a move started by substitute Sufian Anuar who made an immediate impact.
In the 84th minute, Sufian slammed a stunning header into the top corner to make it 8-0 as the Sabahans looked in disbelief at the scoreline. Four minutes later, Sabah’s humiliation was compounded when their defender Shahrul Azhar was forced to turn Shahdan Sulaiman’s dangerous cross into the back of the net for the final score of 9-0.
Speaking at the post match press conference, Sabah head coach Gosutim Ganai said: “We tried our best, but we know Singapore (LionsXII) is a very good team. We cannot do anything, they were really really good. Congrats to LionsXII.”
LionsXII head coach, V. Sundramoorthy said: “It was a great win. I think we should erase the memories of Malaysia and move forward to this game and the fans were great tonight.”
Singapore had lost 0-2 to Malaysia last Tuesday in the second leg of the Causeway Challenge, a two-legged, home-and-away friendly series. Singapore drew 2-2 with Malaysia at home in the first leg.
“What more can I ask from the team when they can score nine goals? Definitely I’m surprised with the 9-0 win,” said Sundram. “Whenever I saw Sabah play, they are a good attacking team and gave a good fight for their opponents. Tonight we played much better and we had good finishing.”
When asked which was his favourite goal, Sundram replied: “Difficult to pick one, but I thought the team goal was one of the best, when Agu passed to Juma’at and he lay it off to Shahdan, it was a good combination goal.”
LionsXII next match will be against Terengganu away on Tuesday, June 19th.