Depleted LionsXII win

Adversity brought the best out of the LionsXII yesterday and the team mustered a gritty second-half comeback to secure their first away win of their Malaysian Super League (MSL) season last night after beating Sime Darby 2-1 in Selayang.

The victory came even as the side from Singapore kicked off with at least six players out of contention.

No wonder coach Fandi Ahmad was full of praise for his charges after the win, saying: "In the first-half, we were ball watching a lot and we paid for our lapse of concentration."

"But we showed a desire to win in the second-half and I thought we deserved to win and we should have scored more goals."

Central defence was hardest hit as Madhu Mohana was suspended while Afiq Yunos is out of the MSL season after suffering a knee injury. To make matters worse, Safuwan Baharudin, who was slated to start, failed to recover in time from his back problem.

Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi, Christopher van Huizen and Zakir Samsudin were also unavailable having joined the Singapore Under-23 team for centralised training on Friday.

So threadbare was Fandi's options, that he was forced to field midfielder Izzdin Shafiq at centre-back alongside another midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin.

To compound matters, striker Khairul Nizam pulled a hamstring during warm-up and had to be replaced by Sufian Anuar in the starting line-up.

The LionsXII's task then took on an extra level of difficulty when Sime Darby took a surprise and stunning lead in the 24th minute.

As goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud rushed out to head away a lofted ball, Sime Darby midfielder Fahrul Razi lobbed into the net with a volley from 30 metres out that went into the goal off the underside of the bar.

Midfielder Firdaus Kasman then netted a blockbuster of his own in the 56th minute, equalising with a volley from his weaker left foot just outside the box after midfielder Raihan Rahman's throw-in was headed away by the Sime Darby defence.

Winger Gabriel Quak then scored the winner and his fourth goal of the season in the 66th minute as he expertly steered the ball into the bottom left corner of the net from outside the box.

The LionsXII's first back-to back victory of the season in the league, will give the side a much-needed momentum going into their biggest match of the season thus far - the first leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final against Terengganu at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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