The LIONSXII theme song

All square in the 1st leg of the Malaysia Cup Semi-Final for LionsXII

All square in the 1st leg of the Malaysia Cup Semi-Final for LionsXII

SINGAPORE, 5 OCTOBER 2012: LionsXII played out to a 1-1 draw against ATM FA in their first leg of the Malaysia Cup Semi-Finals, in front of a 7,479 strong crowd on Friday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Centre back Safuwan Baharudin’s 81st minute header was enough to cancel out Marlon James’ opener in the 55th minute, ensuring that there’s everything to play for in the 2nd leg on 11 October at the MP Selayang Stadium.

Both teams took quite a while to settle down and backed by the strong home support, the LionsXII started to string their passes around and threaten the ATM FA backline after 15 minutes.

Agu Casmir was particularly a bright spark up front in the opening exchange, winning a number of corners although the LionsXII were unable to convert them successfully.

The home team could have gone ahead just six minutes before halftime, after Shahdan Sulaiman’s attempt several yards outside the box took a wicked bounce, but ATM FA custodian Farizal Harun read the situation well and pushed it away.

Two minutes later, Captain Shahril Ishak was played through by Agu, but his shot was too tame to trouble Farizal.

However, their dominance of possession was left undone after Marlon James managed to latch onto a long punt from ATM FA’s half just outside the LionsXII’s penalty box, before taking a stride and finishing it past Izwan Mahbud to break the deadlock ten minutes after the halftime break.

Despite the setback, the LionsXII continued to press hard, and eventually secured an equalizer in the 81st minute. A superb cross by Shahdan from a freekick found Safuwan at the far post, and the defender, who was pushed up front, rose the highest to head it into the net.

An injury in the 85th minute to substitute Sevki Sha’ban however left the LionsXII down to ten man, marring hopes of a comeback with a numerical disadvantage.

Speaking at the post match press conference, ATM FA coach B Sathianathan felt that a draw is a good result for his team to bring home for the 2nd leg. “Definitely, it’s good to get an away goal. Like I said before, it’s a bonus,” said Sathianathan.

He however, felt that the goal they conceded was a ‘soft’ one. “I always knew they were a threat on set pieces. This is a learning curve for them, because we are always going commit mistakes.

“I know LionsXII is really hard to crack; they have a really strong defence. They won’t open up easily like our opponents did in other game,” added Sathianathan, when asked if his team is able to finish the job on 11 October.

LionsXII head coach V Sundramoorthy felt that playing in the Semi-Final got to his players, which affected their performance as a result. He said, “I think the nerves got to the boys. Some of them were abit jittery when the game started but I thought they will overcome it.

“But today, they took longer and never settled in, giving away the ball very cheaply. Going down a goal, which is against an experienced team like ATM with lots of good players, they are seasoned campaigners who know how to control the tempo.

“However, we still stand a chance and I’m confident that I’m able to come up with a plan and get the win.”

The ‘Dazzler’ also praised Baihakki for keeping Marlon James quiet throughout apart from the goal, as well as Safuwan for the equalizing goal, describing it as a ‘typical Safuwan goal.’

When quipped if he faces an uphill task in Kuala Lumpur for the 2nd leg, he responded, “We need to score; we need to win the game. It’s not going to be easy, but we will go there and give it the best shot. We have nothing to lose. We are capable of better performance and we should work towards that.”

The LionsXII will go up against ATM FA on 11 October 2012, 8.45pm at the MP Selayang Stadium, Kuala Lumpur.

For match details, http://lionsxii.sg/details/mc12-lionsxii-vs-atm-fa/