Another blow to Malaysia Cup hopes

Another blow to Malaysia Cup hopes
LionsXII midfielder Hafiz Sujad (right) fending off the close attention of a Sarawak defender during Malaysia Cup Group D match in Kuching.

KUCHING - Sarawak 2

LionsXII 1

By day, the Sarawak Stadium is an empty concrete-coloured bowl, an ageing arena of rusty railings, cobwebs and lizard droppings scattered all over the stands that transforms into a cauldron of hate under the floodlights.

To win the Malaysia Cup, the LionsXII have to win in rickety old grounds like these, where the home sides are waiting to devour the Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions from Singapore.

And eaten alive were V. Sundramoorthy's men, who fell 1-2 to the Crocodiles before 20,000 fanatical fans to leave their Cup campaign hanging by a thread.

This, after going 16 matches unbeaten before losing their final MSL game 0-2 at Kelantan. With this result, the LionsXII have now recorded two defeats and a draw in their last three fixtures.

Just like how a determined Kedah forced a 2-2 draw in the opening Group D match last Tuesday, last night's defeat in Kuching came as Sarawak showed they were the hungrier side.

They may be near invincible in the MSL but with the coveted Malaysia Cup now at stake, hostile crowds, sneaky elbows, studs-up tackles and shirt tugs are now to be expected.

Although Robert Alberts' flat 4-4-2 is primitive by the standards of modern tactics, what his team lacked in refinement, they made up for it with hard running and liberal doses of brute force.

From right midfielder's Zamri Morshidi's long throw that caused confusion in the box in the 11th minute, left-back Shakir Hamzah headed past goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and into his own net.

Much has been said about the absence of captain Shahril Ishak, who is nursing a bruised knee, and the playmaker's introduction after half-time gradually brought the LionsXII out of their shell.

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