Written By: Kenneth Ho
The LionsXII are a step closer to qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Cup 2015 after a 1-0 win over Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II.
The win took the LionsXII’s overall tally to ten points, nearly beyond the reach of JDT II and Terengganu. Both teams will need to win their remaining games and hope the LionsXII suffer a defeat in their last game to overtake them.
Shahdan Sulaiman’s goal at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday evening proved the difference between both sides and it was a victory that the hosts fully deserved.
Within seven minutes of kick-off, Hafiz Sujad had forced JDT II goalkeeper K. Sasikumar into action as he parried the midfielder’s shot away.
Just moments later, Sahil Suhaimi wasted a big chance by chipping just wide of the post after having only Sasikumar to beat.
A flowing move then saw Safuwan freed in the box and he swept a cross to the far post for Hafiz, who could not reach there in time to make the vital finishing touch in the 17th minute.
Faris Ramli was next to come close for the hosts, as he found himself unmarked in the 38th minute but his point-blank shot was parried by Sasikumar.
The goalkeeper once again stood in the LionsXII’s way five minutes later, as he kept out Sahil’s attempt at the near post.
However, JDT II’s goal was finally breached in the second half, with Shahdan providing the vital breakthrough in the 49th minute.
From Shakir Hamzah’s cut-back, Shahdan sent a perfectly-placed shot into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
There was a big shout for a penalty just after the hour mark when Baihakki Khaizan tripped Faris in the box, but the referee was unmoved by the LionsXII’s appeals.
Sahil could have made sure of the win just a minute from time but he was once again foiled by Sasikumar at close range.
This allowed JDT II to throw bodies forward and place the LionsXII under heavy pressure in the dying moments of the game.
But there they faced a daunting obstacle, with Izwan Mahbud showcasing his stellar goalkeeping skills to keep them at bay.
The LionsXII skipper first kept out Shahril’s effort with his feet, before he pulled off a superb reflex save to claw away Irfan Fazail’s shot despite seeming to dive the wrong way.
The full-time whistle soon came to relieve the pressure on the LionsXII as they grabbed their first clean sheet and third win of the Malaysia Cup campaign.
LionsXII: Izwan Mahbud (GK) (C), Madhu Mohana, Hafiz Sujad (Christopher Van Huizen 67′), Faritz Hameed, Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman (Firdaus Kasman 60′), Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Sahil Suhaimi, Shakir Hamzah
Johor Darul Ta’zim II: K. Sasikumar (GK), Baihakki Khaizan, Nicholas Delmonte, Zaquan Adha, Akmal Ishak (Shafiq Shahrudin 59′), Akram Mahinan, Hasbullah Abu Bakar, Shahril Ishak (C), Afiq Fazail, Ramzi Haziq (Irfan Fazail 75′), Fandi Othman (Alif Yusof 85′)