By Nigel Chin
LionsXII 0-2 Perak FA
(Abdulafees Abdulsalam 18’, Milan Purovic 65’)
Singapore, 21 June 2014: The LionsXII suffered an upset against Perak FA as they went down 2-0 in their last home league match of the season on Saturday evening.
Despite registering 19 shots on goal with 8 on target, the Singapore developmental team could not find a way past Perak goalkeeper Razi Effendi, who had a superb game in goal.
This meant that Fandi’s side has now lost on two consecutive occasions, following a 2-1 defeat away at Shah Alam to Selangor PKNS, although on any other day they would have secured a comfortable victory.
The LionsXII had started the game brightly as they tried to clinch an early goal, dominating possession right from kick-off. Striker Khairul Amri had two early chances to open the scoring but on both occasions, Razi was on hand to deny him.
It was a sign of things to come, as the goalkeeper would go on to keep the Lions out time and again throughout the whole 90 minutes.
A lapse in defence in the 18th minute then allowed the away side to break the deadlock through a set-piece. While Izwan Mahbud initially dealt with Marco Tulio’s freekick, no one was on hand to pick up Perak striker Abdulafees Abdulsalam, who slammed home the rebound.
The LionsXII tried to hit back four minutes later, but Gabriel Quak’s shot was unfortunately deflected out of play following good work from Faris Ramli down the left wing.
An effort from vice-captain Safuwan Baharudin then followed after he broke through down the middle, but his shot was blocked by the scrambling Perak defenders.
A minute before half-time, LionsXII were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Up stepped Shahfiq Ghani, who guided the ball towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by Razi.
The home side came out in the second half in the same manner they started in the first, but found Razi to be unbeatable in goal, including two quick fire chances in the 54th minute. First, right winger Quak tried to curl the ball into the bottom far corner, but Razi dived down to palm it away. Faris then retrieved the ball and laid it off for Shahfiq, but the goal-bound shot was stopped by Razi.
Six minutes later, a brilliant reverse pass from Abdulsalam allowed his strike partner Milan Purovic to break the offside trap, and the former Montenegro international finished past Izwan with aplomb.
Fandi responded by bringing on Aqhari Abdullah to great effect in the 68th minute, as the former Courts Young Lions man used his passing range and vision to create more chances for his forwards.
A lofted ball by the substitute found right back Madhu Mohana in the box, who knocked it down for the on-rushing Amri, only for his attempt to hit the post with Razi rooted to his spot.
That was the closest LionsXII came to scoring, as they never found a way back into the game.
Fandi: We are short of confidence
At the post match press conference, head coach Fandi Ahmad cut a desolate figure as he reflected on his side’s inability to put on a show in their final home game.
“It’s disappointing,” he reflected bluntly.
“They (Perak) played with fire in their bellies and wanted the three points. We lost confidence, and the mindset was wrong. Perak deserve the win as they took their chances and defended well.
“Credit must be given to the goalkeeper. We lost to a team who had better spirit.
“I’ve spoken to the boys and told them to focus more on the game. The boys have the ability and talent, but the quality isn’t there yet. They need time to develop.”
The former Singapore International took the time to praise substitute Aqhari’s performance after coming on midway in the second half.
He said, “Aqhari did well. He is the kind of player who will always make an impact as a substitute.
“On the bench, he will analyse the opponent’s weakness and when he comes on, he will exploit it.”
“That’s a thinking player,” assessed Fandi.
Despite holding off the LionsXII, Perak FA head coach Abu Bakar Fadzim felt they are still a quality team and sympathised with them.
He said, “LionsXII is a very young and good team but maybe they are short of confidence and experience. Young players need more time and less pressure (to develop).
“Their performances this year have been like a roller coaster and that has not helped them. The pressure is not helping them. We’ve been through it and I can understand.”
The LionsXII will finish their league campaign this coming Wednesday, June 25th, against T-Team away at Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium. Fans can catch the game ‘LIVE’ on Starhub Channel 201 from 8:30pm onwards.
Do check back on the LionsXII’s website and Facebook page for the latest updates regarding the game. Go LionsXII go!