LionsXII face humiliation

PERAK 1

(Azlan Ismail 9)

LIONSXII 0

 Alarming was the adjective used by V Sundramoorthy to describe the state of the LionsXII defence.

If the coach does not turn the form of his rearguard around very quickly, the Singapore outfit will become one of the biggest flops in the history of the Malaysia Cup.

Sundram was once again frustrated by his team's poor defending last night, after Perak beat the Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions at their own game by scoring the only goal via a long throw.

In front of 20,000 vociferous fans at Stadium Perak, Mohd Nasir's ninth-minute long throw was inadvertently flicked on by Singapore international defender Baihakki Khaizan as he challenged Brazilian Paulo Rangel and bundled into goal by Azlan Ismail inside the six-yard box.

None of the LionsXII defenders were able to get to the ball first.

Sitting bottom of Group D with only one point from three games, the LionsXII are in danger of missing out on the quarter-finals.

The LionsXII face a must-win game at home on Saturday against Perak, or their Malaysia Cup adventure will come to a sorry end.

This was not how it was meant to be, especially for the MSL champions.

Speaking post-match, Sundram said: "We conceded a soft goal early and from then on, we were chasing the game.

"We should have defended set-pieces properly.

"I expected the Malaysia Cup to be difficult, but it is alarming how we have conceded the goals."

In their group opener against Kedah last Tuesday at the Jalan Besar Stadium - it finished 2-2 - the home side conceded two goals off defensive errors after twice going in front.

Last Saturday, they lost 2-1 to Sarawak in Kuching after goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud's miscalculated punch at a long throw led to a Shakir Hamzah own-goal, before Shahfiq Ghani viciously slapped Muamer Salibasic to concede a penalty.

Perak's weak winner last night seems to suggest an alarming trend developing for the LionsXII.

The team have now conceded five goals in three group games.

It is shocking, considering Sundram's side boasted the meanest defence in the MSL, conceding just 15 goals in 22 league games.

The LionsXII are looking nothing like the all-conquering league champions they were as recently as a month ago.

Last night, they even racked up three foul throws, and while they created more chances in the second half against the hosts, Farizal Marlias hardly broke sweat in the Perak goal.

Struggling

In the Malaysia Cup, they are struggling to beat teams that they were previously unbeaten against - in four days, Sarawak and Perak have broken their hoodoo against the Singapore side.

The LionsXII face a humiliating exit at the first hurdle of the Malaysia Cup, although Kedah's stalemate with Sarawak last night means Sundram's men are just three points off second spot.

Maybe the LionsXII have become complacent after their championship triumph.

Perhaps the Malaysian sides are determined not to simply let them roll to a double.

Perhaps all the recent transfer speculation surrounding members of the team is taking away focus.

Maybe, the Under-23 players in the team are already looking ahead to the South-east Asia (SEA) Games and their mission for gold in Myanmar in December.

Responding to the questions from The New Paper, Sundram said: "I thought we were better than Perak and we created chances many chances, but we did not score.

"We want to do well in this competition but the objective is the SEA Games.

"It's all about confidence and I think they will turn the corner. I just hope it's not too late.

"Saturday's game against Perak now becomes a must-win for us, and I'm confident the boys will deliver because they know how important this match is."


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