The LIONSXII theme song

Madhu header gives LionsXII slim advantage

Madhu header gives LionsXII slim advantage

LionsXII 1-0 ATM FA

(Madhu Mohana 39′)

SINGAPORE, 28 September 2013: The LionsXII continued to march on in the 2013 Malaysia Cup as they overcame ATM FA 1-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.

Playing at the Jalan Besar Stadium in front of 7,464 fans, a Madhu Mohana header six minutes before half time was enough to give the Singaporeans a slender lead going into the second leg.

After the delightful 3-1 away win against Kedah FA which brought his boys into this quarter-final, LionsXII gaffer V Sundramoorthy found little reason to tinker with his starting eleven. Apart from the returning Shahril Ishak who came in for Faris Ramli, the starters in Alor Setar were retained in a strong-looking lineup.

Fresh from their strong finish in the group stages, they launched their forays into the ATM box from the get-go.

Hariss Harun was brought down within the first 90 seconds, with Shahfiq Ghani seeing his freekick blocked by the defensive wall.

Within the first 5 minutes, there were already four corners awarded to the LionsXII with the ATM defense struggling to get the ball cleared.

Sensing the vulnerability of the opponents in the air, the wingers kept launching aerial balls into the box.

Shahfiq and Hafiz Sujad saw their headers land wide of the post, while Safuwan Baharudin also nodded off-mark on two occasions.

ATM keeper Farizal Harun was finally tested on 18 minutes as he dived low to smother a Hariss snapshot.

Meanwhile, the opponents were finding trouble breaking through the LionsXII backline, with hotshot Marlon James only able to fire two stray efforts well off the mark.

Dominating possession and with their confidence growing with every minute, it was no surprise Sundram’s boys were the ones who broke the deadlock on 39 minutes.

After Nazrul Nazari earned a corner through his hard work down the right, Shahfiq’s precise inswinger managed to pick out Madhu Mohana at the back post.

The 22-year-old stooped low to direct the leather into the bottom left corner, with Bruno Martelotto only able to help it into his own net.

It was the perfect way for Madhu to celebrate his recent call-up to the national team,

They maintained the lead till half time and continued their gung-ho style in the second half.

At least four openings were created within the first 15 minutes of the restart although they failed to test Farizal in the ATM goal.

At the back, Baihakki was making life difficult for James with his defensive headers and astute interceptions.

After the hour mark, the LionsXII further created two more openings which they simply failed to convert..

Shahfiq fired wide from a tight angle on 64 minutes, while Shahril failed to turn home a scuffed shot from the former just in front of goal three minutes later.

They could have rued those missed opportunities as ATM started to push forward in the final 21 minutes.

Having been under the cosh for the majority of the game, the introduction of winger Venice Elphi increased the urgency of the Gladiators’ attack.

Christie Jayaseelan slalomed through unopposed all the way from the halfway line on 69 minutes, before putting his effort just wide under pressure from the onrushing Izwan Mahbud.

James then forced Izwan into his first real save of the night two minutes later, as the custodian had to stretch and tip his deflected shot over.

Meanwhile Venice forced a number of dead balls which his side failed to capitalize on.

Fortunately, the introduction of Faritz Hameed and Faris Ramli for the exhausted pair of Madhu and Shahril soon after managed to stabilize the LionsXII’s nerves.

Shahfiq saw his impressive inswinging freekick just tipped over on 73 minutes, before turning provider 12 minutes later with a superb ball over the top for Faris who nodded just wide of the post.

ATM substitute Affize Mamat had the final opportunity of the night but was unable to keep his long-range volley down.

Eventually it was the LionsXII who eked out a narrow win, and drawing first blood in the quarter-finals.

Sundram: It’s good that we didn’t concede tonight

Although the margin of the win could have been greater, Sundram wore a satisfied look at the post-match press conference.

“We would have loved to get a two-goal cushion tonight,” he admitted.

“We created the chances but didn’t manage to finish. But it’s good that at least we didn’t concede. If the score was 2-1 in our favor, then ATM will just need one goal in the second leg.”

With hero-of-the-night Madhu hitting form at the right time and no major injuries in the team, the Dazzler is confident that his side can continue their Malaysia Cup adventure.

“Madhu’s getting on strong recently,” he said.

“He was the best player during the Merdeka Cup tournament and he scored a great goal tonight. Also it’s good to see options like Zulfahmi (Arifin) and Aqhari (Abdullah) on the bench, they’re fighting for spots in the team. That’s a really good problem for me.

It will be tough going to Selayang (for the second leg) and we’ll have to go there with the right gameplan.”

Meanwhile his opposite counterpart B Sathianathan was left lamenting the goal which they conceded.

“Of course I’m not happy with the goal,” he said.

“We knew LionsXII are good on their set-pieces and we worked on it, but still we conceded. It was a lack of concentration on our part.”

However, the former Malaysia national team coach is confident that his side can turn the tide in the second leg.

“It’s definitely not a mountain to climb,” he insisted.

“We’re happy that it’s only 1-0, many other teams who come here get ‘murdered’. We didn’t score in this game, but perhaps we’re saving it for the next match.

The pressure is on us for the second leg, but I’ll tell my boys to be patient and not rush for the goal. We have to keep playing our brand of football.”

The second leg will be played in Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium, Selangor on Friday, 4th October at 8.45pm.

The match will be shown ‘LIVE’ on StarHub SuperSports Arena Channel 201. Do follow the LionsXII Facebook page on matchday as we bring you the ‘LIVE’ updates of their quest to reach the Malaysia Cup final this year!