By Kenneth Tan
Felda United 3-1 LionsXII
(Zah Rahan Krangar10’, Indra Putra 26’, Makeche Ndumba 28’) (Faris Ramli 23’)
KUALA LUMPUR, 2 September 2014: The LionsXII was unable to end their 2014 campaign on a winning note as they fell to a 3-1 defeat against Felda United at the Stadium Selayang.
All four goals came in a frantic first half-hour of the game. The LionsXII had equalised through Faris Ramli after falling behind to Zah Rahan Krangar’s 10th minute opener for Felda, but two goals in quick succession eventually proved to be the downfall for the 2013 Malaysian Super League champions.
Despite having no chance of further progress in the competition, head coach Fandi Ahmad opted for a strong line-up with just two changes from the team which started in the previous game against Pahang FA.
Afiq Yunos slotted in at centre-back for Safuwan Baharudin while Gabriel Quak replaced Khairul Nizam. Meanwhile, Faris Ramli was moved into a central attacking role just behind Sufian Anuar.
Before the changes could see its desired effects, they got off to an ominous start by conceding inside 10 minutes.
A good move down the left channel by Felda saw Syamim Yahya receiving the ball from Indra Putra, before teeing up Krangar for a 20-yard half-volley which sailed beyond the reach of Izwan Mahbud into the LionsXII goal.
However credit to the boys, they rallied and duly levelled matters midway through the first half.
It came after a superb barnstorming run from Faris Ramli had stung the palms of opposition keeper Farizal Harun, before the hardworking Sufian retrieved the ball at the by-line to cross for the former to tap home from close range.
The joy was short-lived for the Singapore side though. Right-back Madhu Mohana had to be stretchered off following an injury, forcing Fandi to bring on Safuwan. It brought about a reshuffle that saw Nazrul Nazari moving from right wing to an unaccustomed right-back role.
With the LionsXII still settling in following the changes made, Felda capitalized and scored on 26 minutes to regain the lead.
Makeche Ndumba’s cross found Indra Putra inside the six-yard box, who finished past a stranded Izwan.
Things then got even better for the home side as they doubled the lead two minutes later.
Zambian forward Makeche went on a superb solo run down the left, before clipping a neat finish beyond Izwan to put the Fighters 3-1 up.
That was a big blow for the LionsXII as they took a while to get going again. Their only chance of the remainder of the half fell to Safuwan who could not convert his header from Faris’ freekick into goal.
Fandi then opted to bring on Emmeric Ong and Samuel Benjamin to make their debuts for the club.
The LionsXII finished third in Group A, with five points from six games.
LionsXII: Izwan Mahbud (GK); Madhu Mohana (Safuwan Baharudin 26’), Baihakki Khaizan, Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Sujad; Isa Halim (Samuel Benjamin 81’), Zulfahmi Arifin; Nazrul Nazari, Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak (Emmeric Ong 67’); Sufian Anuar.
Unused subs: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Syafiq Zainal, Shahfiq Ghani, Firdaus Kasman.