If the LionsXII's hopes of progressing into the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Cup were faint before last night's match against Johor Darul Takzim II (JDT II), they are probably all but extinguished now.
Needing a win in their Group A fixture to keep their hopes of reaching the last eight of the Malaysia Cup, the Singapore outfit instead lost 1-2 to the second-tier Malaysia Premier League (MPL) side.
Hafiz Sujad's equaliser in the 51st minute cancelled out Syafiq Shahrudin's 20th-minute opener but substitute Fandi Ahmad, who shares the exact same name as the LionsXII coach and Singapore football legend, settled matters with his 83rd-minute winner.
The result condemned the LionsXII to the bottom of the four-team group with one point, six adrift of leaders Felda United who beat current holders Pahang 3-2. JDT II move into third spot in Group A on three points, three behind Pahang.
Said LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad: "This is a big disappointment for us. We came here with the thought of getting the three points. "We may have dominated the game but we didn't score from the chances we created whereas JDT II had fewer chances but managed to put them into the back of the net.
"They deserved to win. We have to look forward to the next three games now, which will really be our cup finals."
LionsXII coach Fandi had been under pressure following a disappointing Malaysian Super League season, in which the LionsXII, the defending MSL champions, finished eighth.
In search of the team's first win in the Malaysia Cup, his side went on the offensive from the first whistle. From a half-cleared Zulfahmi Arifin corner, Sufian Anuar lobbed the ball into the box for Safuwan Baharudin - who had breached the JDT II offside trap. But the defender saw his goal-bound header come back off the post.
Displaying a sense of urgency in their play, the LionsXII pegged the hosts back into their own half with slick passing and off-the-ball movement.
But that has largely been the LionsXII story this season. Despite enjoying greater possession, they have struggled to convert their chances and yesterday were punished for it in the 20th minute when the hosts took the lead against the run of play.
Running onto a Alif Yusof through-pass, JDT II striker Syafiq outwitted Shakir Hamzah before cooly slotting a right-footed shot past Izwan Mahbud.
Hafiz levelled matters in the 51st minute, smashing home a loose ball that JDT II goalkeeper Anis Faron had spilled into his path. But it was JDT II's Fandi who had the final say, bundling the ball past Izwan, to tighten the pressure on his more illustrous namesake.
This article was first published on August 24, 2014.
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