Written by: Nigel Chin
LionsXII cruised to a 3-0 win over bottom-placed Sime Darby to finish the Malaysia Super League without a defeat at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday evening in front of 5,980 fans.
With the victory, the Singapore side made it eight wins and three draws at home – the second time they have finished undefeated at Jalan Besar after 2013.
Head coach Fandi Ahmad stated before the game that the LionsXII were bidding to end the season on a high, and the hosts certainly showed it.
They almost went ahead in the third minute through Khairul Amri after the striker forced Hafiz Sujad’s left-wing cross towards goal with a powerful header, but were denied by Sime Darby goalkeeper Suffian Rahman.
The LionsXII eventually took the lead though, when Safuwan Baharudin found the back of the net nine minutes later.
The midfielder, donning the armband in Izwan Mahbud’s absence, rose highest to meet Christopher Van Huizen’s corner at the far post and powered a bullet header into the top corner that left Suffian with no chance.
Sime Darby had a decent opportunity midway into the first-half after LionsXII conceded a free-kick 20 yards from goal, but Reinaldo Da Costa fired straight at Khairulhin Khalid, who was making his first league start of the season.
A vital touch from Suffian in the 38th minute prevented another LionsXII goal, after Madhu Mohana’s long throw flew over Safuwan towards the far post with Amri lurking.
However, Amri did get himself onto the scoresheet on the stroke of half-time, converting from the spot after Saiful Hasnu handled the ball inside the box to extend the lead.
Sime Darby came out of the break looking to reduce the deficit and had a chance to do so in the 52nd minute, but Fahrul Razi shot straight at Khairulhin after being played through.
Instead, it was the LionsXII who continued to dominate, as Van Huizen forced Suffian into yet another save with a shot from just outside the area minutes later, before Safuwan headed over Shakir Hamzah’s long throw.
The visitors had the ball in the net in the 69th minute when Khairulhin failed to stop Rafiq Shah’s header from going in, but the LionsXII were saved by the linesman’s flag.
Things were becoming more comfortable for the LionsXII as the clock ticked on, and the home side started to entertain fans with some nice spells in possession.
Left-back Hafiz Sujad then ensured the win with a glorious goal in the 73rd minute. Overlapping on the left, the winger latched onto Van Huizen’s pass and flicked the ball onto his weaker right foot, before curling a wonderful finish into the top corner that left Suffian stunned.
Khairulhin almost let in one when he misjudged Dzulfahmi Hadi’s long-range scorcher, but fortunately for the keeper, the ball found its way onto the crossbar before looping behind for a corner.
With the three-goal lead, Fandi saw fit to give Al-Qaasimy Rahman his first appearance in the LionsXII jersey, bringing him on for Van Huizen.
Substitute Sufian Anuar thought he made it four with an acrobatic effort with the game nearing its end, only to see it bouncing just inches wide.
There was still enough time for Sime Darby to rock the crossbar through Eddy Hilmi’s dipping effort, but ultimately, the visitors fell short as LionsXII wrapped up the 2015 Malaysia Super League with a win.
LionsXII: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Sujad, Nazrul Nazari, Izzdin Shafiq, Firdaus Kasman (Raihan Rahman 63’), Christopher Van Huizen (Al-Qaasimy Rahman 81’), Safuwan Baharudin (C), Khairul Amri (Sufian Anuar 71’)