Safu1 Perak 0

Safu1 Perak 0
Safuwan Baharudin (above) epitomises the LionsXII's neversay- die spirit with an injury-time winner.

PERAK 0

LIONSXII 1

(Safuwan Baharudin 90+3)

If there was such a thing as Fergie time for Manchester United, then maybe the LionsXII are slowly mastering the art of "Fandi time".

For the third time in nine matches, the Singapore side scored late to steal either a point or the winner in the Malaysian Super League.

On Tuesday night, at the Ipoh Stadium against Perak, Fandi's fledglings left it till deep into injury time before striking the killer blow.

After 90 dull minutes, in which both sides failed to muster any clear chance, Safuwan Baharudin did what he does best - rise higher than anyone else in the penalty box and nod the ball into the net.

The goal gave the LionsXII their second win on the trot, after beating PKNS 2-1 at home last Saturday, and elevated the defending champions up to fifth in the table, just two points adrift of leaders Terengganu.

Safuwan has scored many times for the LionsXII over the past three years, but his celebration on Tuesday night was something extra - he ran to the travelling Singapore fans in the stands, punched the air and let out a loud scream.

"The goal felt special, I guess it's because I scored against Perak last year in the Malaysia Cup as well," Safuwan said after the match.

"We worked really hard in this game, and we deserved to win. It wasn't easy; Perak are not the best team in the league but they ran their socks off.

"A 0-0 draw would've been disappointing for us. That's why we went for it towards the end of the game. I kind of felt a goal was coming."

A neutral viewer might not have shared Safuwan's premonition.

For 92 minutes, neither side looked likely - or even worthy - of scoring a goal.

Credit must go to the LionsXII defence and midfield, in particular Raihan Rahman, who anchored the midfield with relentless running and tenacious tackling.

Perak, missing both their foreign strikers for the match, were restricted to long-distance efforts.

In the end, some nifty footwork from Khairul Amri on the left flank was the tonic needed to break the deadlock.

The striker twisted and turned his marker before swinging in a deep cross for Safuwan, whose header took a slight deflection past goalkeeper Razi Effendi.

Fandi was pleased with his team's defending, but highlighted the need for improvement in other areas.

"We played lethargic football in the first half. I don't know why - we came here prepared," said the coach, who surprised many when he took off winger Gabriel Quak after just 32 minutes.

Brilliant

"But, one thing about these boys, they never give up. In the end, did we deserve it? Well, we had the better chances.

"The goal came from some brilliant technique from Amri. You see, this is why we are scared to rest him - because we know he can do magic."

Fandi also singled out Raihan for his performance, praising his desire and work-rate on the pitch.

"Raihan did all the tackling; he put his weight behind it and the others must learn to do that also," said Fandi.

"That's what I want from my players - character. We can't play like nice, little boys like we did in the first half."

The Malaysian Super League match between Perak and the LionsXII was not telecast on StarHub TV Ch 201 and 255 on Tuesday due to technical and logistical issues faced by the host broadcasters.


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