The LIONSXII theme song

Last-gasp equaliser denies LionsXII victory in Cup opener

Last-gasp equaliser denies LionsXII victory in Cup opener

LionsXII 2-2 Kedah FA

(Shahril Ishak 12′, Shahfiq Ghani 66′) (Alen Guc 23′, 90’+3)

SINGAPORE, 20 August 2013: It was a heartbreaking end to a pulsating night of football at the Jalan Besar Stadium as the LionsXII were held 2-all by Kedah FA in their Malaysia Cup group opener.

The recently-crowned Malaysian Super League champions look set to clinch all three points in this encounter after substitute Shahfiq Ghani curled home a 66th-minute freekick, but a late converted penalty by Kedah forward Alen Guc ensured both sides ended sharing the spoils.

Being the lowest-ranked team in this competition, the Hijau-Kuning came into this game seemingly trying to prove they are no pushovers.

Controlling the first 10 minutes, captain Baddrol Bakhtiar had the first opportunity of the night as he fired harmlessly wide from a long way out.

However it was the LionsXII who managed to open the scoring two minutes later.

A superb Faris Ramli run was stopped inside the box as Kedah defender Fariss Azlan tried to clear the danger.

However before the latter could do that, Fazrul Nawaz nipped in to loop a superb cross to the lurking Shahril Ishak who could make no mistakes from two yards out with a superb stooping header.

Fazrul could have turned goalscorer minutes later after taking down a Faritz cross, but his resulting volley could only clear the bar.

Kedah soon got their act together with Baddrol letting fly from distance again but Izwan Mahbud was equal to his stinging effort.

However that was only the prelude to what will happen minutes later

A superb measured ball from Baddrol caught out Irwan Shah on the right, as Khyril Muhymeen stole in to square the ball across for Guc who bundled the ball in from close range on his second attempt.

Rising in confidence from that goal, they came close again on two occasions – with Baddrol’s freekick deflected just over and an audacious 30-yard volley from Tengku Hasbullah which came off the bar with Izwan beaten.

The LionsXII tried their best to recover with Nazrul Nazari proving to be a constant thorn to the Kedah defence.

Superbly dispossessing a Kedah defender just after the half-hour mark, the 22-year-old got down the right before producing a cross which Fazrul and Shahril fail to capitalize on.

He was involved again on 35 minutes with a superb flick from Shahril’s cross which was just denied by Kedah keeper Abdul Hadi.

The former Courts Young Lions winger brought that form into the second half as he forced Hadi into another save on 50 minutes through a fierce shot after cutting inside his marker.

Sundram soon brought on Hafiz Sujad and Shahfiq Ghani to replace the tiring duo of Irwan and Fazrul, and those changes injected energy into the LionsXII play.

The former overlapped well on a couple of occasions, while the latter soon played his part in his side’s second goal.

Earning a freekick from 25 yards out after being pulled down by Wan Hossen Wan Abdul Ghani, the gifted left-footer proceeded to curl a superb effort over the defensive wall and underneath the reach of Hadi to send the majority of the 6,830-strong crowd wild.

However the LionsXII was unable to hold out for the victory.

Shahril soon went down with a knee injury, forcing Sundram to bring on Izzdin Shahfiq in a 4-5-1 formation to finish off the last 15 minutes.

That gave Kedah the confidence to push forward, forcing Izwan into a couple of last-gasp catches.

Goalscorer Guc threatened twice – with a freekick saved before just failing to get the crucial touch on Khyril’s cross.

Time seemed to be running out for them before they were handed an unlikely lifeline in the second minute of injury time.

From a loose ball, substitute Syafiq Ahmad manage to shield the ball from a couple of LionsXII players before getting the slightest of touches from Shakir Hamzah’s attempted clearance.

Referee Wan Mohd Tarmizi had no hesitations in pointing  to the spot and Guc eventually stepped up to send Izwan the wrong way, cruelly denying the home side the all three points.

Sundram: It’s not going to be an easy ride

At the post-match press conference, Kedah assistant coach Antonio Sisic was naturally a delighted figure as he lauded his players’ efforts in achieving the unlikely result.

“It was a very tough game for us,” he said.

“We had some problems with a couple of our players – Baddrol was down with flu for the last three days but he insisted that as the captain, he needs to play and bring them a victory.

Another player, Tengku, vomited at half time and I wanted to sub him, but he insisted that he want to carry on.

That shows the team’s fighting spirit and we definitely deserved this point.”

Despite now having a handy point in the bag, the Croatian refused to look too far into his crystal ball.

“Every point is important in this competition,” he concluded.

“But I’ve said before – our goal is not the quarter-finals or semis, it is to improve ourselves with every game.”

Meanwhile Sundram was obviously left disappointed with the result, although not the performance.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” he said.

“It does feel like a loss when we drop points here, but I have to give credit to the boys – they fought very hard, they never gave up and I see them growing up with each game.”

With away games against Sarawak FA and Perak FA coming up next, the Dazzler wants his boys to be ready for a rough journey en route to the knockout stages.

“We have five more games to go,” he insisted.

“With this draw, the boys know they need to go away to get results in the next two games.

It’s not going to be an easy ride, but that’s football. If we want to succeed, we have to pick ourselves up and overcome these challenges.”

The LionsXII’s next home game will be on Saturday, 31 August, against Perak after they have navigated through that couple of games.

Do continue to support the boys as they chase for a dream Double in this 2013 season!