Super subs send LionsXII through

Super subs send LionsXII through
LionsXII substitute Sufian Anuar (left) and Safuwan Baharudin celebrating his equaliser after just coming on for Khairul Amri. Torrential rain and a waterlogged pitch halted play for half an hour just past the hour mark.
PHOTO: The New Paper

On a wet and slightly wild night in Kuala Terengganu, the LionsXII bench stole the limelight as they booked a spot in the Malaysia Cup quarter- finals.

It took just nine minutes for the drama to begin in the 2-1 win over Terengganu, when Khairul Amri limped off for the visitors.

Initially ruled out for this clash in Kuala Terengganu with a hamstring strain, the striker returned ahead of schedule but limped off quickly.

Singapore's top striker is now a huge doubt for the upcoming World Cup football qualifiers against Japan next Thursday and Syria (Nov 17).

Just five minutes later, the 10,000-strong crowd at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium was sent into raptures.

Malaysian national forward Norshahrul Idlan skipped past two markers down the right flank to set up youngster Dhiyaulrahman Hasry for a neat finish.

But parity was restored almost straight from the restart.

Substitute Sufian Anuar - who had just come on for Amri - pounced on a mistimed clearance to curl in a deflected effort.

It was the 28-year-old's first goal for the Singapore outfit since August last year.

As it began to rain in sheets, the game slowed down.

Winger Issey Nakajima came closest to adding to the hosts' tally when his close-range strike cannoned off the crossbar, before goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud scrambled for the rebound.

Play was abandoned for 30 minutes just past the hour mark, as the torrential downpour caused puddles and divots to form across the pitch.

When the action resumed, an imperious Izwan dominated aerial balls into the box and marshalled his backline with aplomb.

Against the run of play, impact substitute Christopher van Huizen broke Terengganu hearts in the dying minutes.

As the winger slid in at the near post to finish, coach Fandi Ahmad and the bench jumped off the bench to spark joyous celebrations.

"We showed a lot of character - we played to win even though a point would have been enough to progress," a beaming Fandi said later.

"The referee was right to stop the game as it was quite dangerous on the field, but the main thing we wanted was for the game to finish tonight, which thankfully it did."

The LionsXII topped the group with 13 points from six games and will next face Pahang in the two-legged quarter-finals on Nov 24 and 28.

The Malaysia Cup holders finished second in Group D after a surprise 0-0 draw at home to Penang.

Terengganu were knocked out after Kedah beat Johor Darul Takzim II 4-2 to book a final-eight clash against Group D winners PKNS.

On facing old foes Pahang, Fandi said: "I expect lots of fireworks. Our boys are improving every day so we should not be afraid of anyone."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on November 5, 2015.
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