Jalan Besar Stadium, Saturday, March 9 2013 – Striker Shahfiq Ghani scored the only goal of the game three minutes from time to extend the LionsXII’s winning streak to four games in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) campaign.
Substitute Fazrul Nawaz provided the much-needed flair into the game and assisted Shahfiq with a through-pass on goal. The latter slotted the ball under the Kelantan’s goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi’s arms as he claimed his first goal of the MSL campaign.
The LionsXII team took just five minutes from the start of the game to show their mettle against last season’s treble-Cup champions Kelantan. Left-winger Faris Ramli proved to be the brightest spark of LionsXII with his blistering runs down the left flank. He also created several chances for Shahfiq in the first half.
Both centrebacks, Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun, also had their chances at goal during the LionsXII’s set-pieces. The latter was deputizing for Baihakki Khaizan.
The LionsXII returned in the second half more determined to beat their opponents. LionsXII left-back Shakir Hamzah, who had just recovered from an injury, was impressive in both defence and attack. Things started looking up for the LionsXII when Coach V Sundramoorthy brought on Safirul Sulaiman in the 63rd minute, replacing Zulfahmi Arifin.
Barely two minutes later, Shahfiq Ghani had the crowd cheering when he put the ball into the back of the net. But his joy of scoring was short-lived as the referee ruled it offside. Shahfiq had misjudged and went in too early behind the last Kelantan’s marker.
Coach Sundram made his second change of the game in the 71st minute. Gabriel Quak, who came on for Faris Ramli, repeatedly tested Kelantan’s defence as he placed several accurate passes into the box after linking up well with captain Shahril Ishak.
Coach Sundram then unleashed Fazrul Nawaz upon Kelantan in the 81st minute, in a bid to break the deadlock. The tactical move paid off. Six minutes later, Fazrul became the provider for Shahfiq as the latter rushed towards goal with only Kelantan’s goalkeeper to beat. With great composure, he slotted the ball past the goalkeeper’s flailing arms to seal victory for LionsXII.
Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak said after the game: “One mistake cost us the game (against LionsXII). The LionsXII team was hungrier and playing in front of their home fans gave them extra energy. I thought this game would have been a draw, but it was decided by one mistake.”
When asked about the LionsXII’s MSL title chances, coach Bojan said: “LionsXII do have a chance as they are strong at home. The team has about 5 to 7 players who have played in the Suzuki Cup, and many of them are also part of the Under-21 national side.”
Coach Sundram was delighted after collecting his first win against Kelantan.
“They (Kelantan) are the best team in the MSL. They have a well-balanced squad. I thought tonight was a very tight game, and both sides were creating chances. Overall, it was a hard-earned three points tonight for us,” said Sundram.
“The turning point of the game was the last 20 to 25 minutes. We knew that Kelantan had travelled much and would be tired in the last quarter of the game. So I brought on fresh legs in Safirul, Gabriel and Fazrul, and that changed the game,” added Sundram.
On Shahfiq’s performance, Sundram said: “That goal gives him the confidence. He has good techniques and has the potential to develop into a good player.”
The next MSL game for LionsXII is scheduled for March 30th, where they will play Negeri Sembilan at the Jalan Besar Stadium. The match will kick off at 7.45pm.
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