Malaysian Super League: Safu-one Perak nil

Perak 0

LionsXII 1

Goalscoring defender Safuwan Baharudin has enhanced his growing reputation as goalscorer by netting a dramatic stoppage-time winner for the LionsXII against Perak to record his first strike of this year's Malaysian Super League (MSL).

With the match seemingly destined for a goalless draw in Ipoh, the 22-year-old centre-back rose highest to meet Khairul Amri's cross and head past goalkeeper Razi Effendi to end the game on a sensational note.

The strike made it two wins in a row for the Singapore outfit, after their 2-1 comeback win over PKNS at Jalan Besar Stadium last Saturday.

But while last night's visitors to the Perak Stadium ultimately left with their heads held high, there was no masking the fact that coach Fandi Ahmad's quest to find his best XI continues.

No less than four players - Gabriel Quak, Faris Ramli, Firdaus Kasman and Faritz Hameed - all had a turn on the right flank, as the LionsXII looked to improve the supply from wide areas.

With Nazrul Nazari sidelined with a pulled left hamstring, Fandi handed Quak a first start in three outings while moving the speedy Faris Ramli from the wing to a more central attacking role.

But that move lasted all of 32 minutes, before Quak was sacrificed after a quiet outing for Sufian Anuar.

"Sometimes we need a player who can fight for the team," Fandi said of the switch. "Gabriel tried his best but that was not all that we were asking for.

"He was missing in attack."

Sufian's introduction failed to spark the team into life, though, on an evening when neither side ever truly moved out of first gear.

In fact, prior to Safuwan's late strike, the best chance that fell to either side came from set-pieces.

The defender met Zulfahmi Arifin's free-kick in the 47th minute, only for goalkeeper Razi to produce an acrobatic save.

Meanwhile, LionsXII custodian Izwan Mahbud was called into action in the 69th minute when he had to tip Myanmar international Kyaw Zayar Win's curling free-kick over.

In recent weeks, Fandi has spoken constantly about his team's inability to convert their chances and they were in danger of paying the price against Perak until Safuwan's late heroics.

But there were other positives from the LionsXII.

With captain Isa Halim set for heel surgery this Friday, Raihan Rahman once again deputised competently in defensive midfield.

Once a bit-part player for the LionsXII, the 23-year-old former Courts Young Lions captain looks set to play a key role in their bid to revive their title defence under Fandi.

They take on T-Team at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

 


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