Sime Darby 1
Two moments of refereeing controversies will be talked about in the LionsXII's 1-0 home defeat by Sime Darby but the shock loss has also prompted coach Fandi Ahmad to warn that similar poor displays will spell the end of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title defence.
Referee Amirul Izwan was at the centre of the storm at Jalan Besar Stadium as he waved off appeals for two spot kicks from the hosts.
In the first minute, winger Faris Ramli tumbled inside the box after defender Firdaus Faudzi appeared to nudge from behind but the man in black waved play on, leading to howls of disbelief from the 7,198 crowd.
In the 29th minute, Firdaus further incensed the hosts when he appeared to handle inside the box when the ball bounced off his boot but referee Amirul ignored the protests from the LionsXII players.
A furious Fandi blasted: "I can't believe how we haven't had a penalty.
"I feel we should have had two. Justice was not done tonight."
With the home side still seething, Sime Darby took advantage of poor marking in the LionsXII defence to grab all three points.
As midfielder Fahrul Razi delivered an outswinging corner in the 45th minute, fellow midfielder Syukur Saidin ghosted in to sidefoot a volley past goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud for the winner.
It was the LionsXII's fourth defeat in 12 MSL games. They had lost only twice at this stage of last season en route to the title.
But it could have all been a different story, had the LionsXII, who wore jerseys that had long-time fan and MSL tour operator Akbar Hashim's name emblazoned in front of it as a tribute to his support, not wasted all 12 chances they created in the game.
Winger Faris was the team's most dangerous player with his tricky dribbles.
Although Sime Darby tried to stifle the LionsXII right from the start by placing men behind the ball, the Singapore side had opportunities to kill off the game but they failed to take it, which infuriated Fandi.
"With the amount of chances we created, the floodgates should have opened," lamented Fandi.
Goalkeeper Izwan was also made to work last night, flying off his goal line three times to thwart the visitors from scoring.
But with three precious points dropped, the title challenge looks to be fading.
"My player have to look hard at themselves in the mirror now," said Fandi.
"We should have taken advantage of this game and the other two upcoming home games.
"Otherwise, we can kiss the title goodbye."
This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.
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