More than once, LionsXII coach V Sundramoorthy yelled and gestured to his players on the pitch.
"Calm down!", was his urgent instruction. He had every reason to worry that his charges might lose their heads - especially after substitute Shahfiq Ghani, one of the coolest heads in the team, lost his temper following a sliding tackle from the back.
Last night's Malaysia Cup opener between the LionsXII and Kedah, which ended 2-2, was physical, heated, and sometimes just downright nasty.
"It was one of the dirtiest games we've ever played," said midfielder Isa Halim after the match. "There were so many off-the-ball incidents that I'm sure the cameras didn't catch. "Running side by side with an opponent, there was a lot of punching and kicking."
What frustrated Isa and the rest of the LionsXII players was not so much the physical nature of the match. It was referee Wan Mohd Tarmizi's penchant for blowing his whistle at every niggling foul.
"He kept stopping the game every time a player went down, that was what got both teams further frustrated," 27-year-old Isa added. "If the referee wanted to call the game that way, fine. But then there were also some wild challenges which went unpunished."
Faris Ramli and defender Shakir Hamzah felt the brunt of Kedah's hard challenges, while skipper Shahril Ishak eventually fell victim to Kedah's rough tactics in the 74th minute when he had to be stretchered off due to a knee injury. Booked
In total, six players - three from each team - were booked.