The LIONSXII theme song

Ruthless LionsXII march on to FA Cup 2nd round

Ruthless LionsXII march on to FA Cup 2nd round

By Kenneth Tan

LionsXII 3-0 KL DRB-Hicom FC

(Sufian Anuar 28’, Gabriel Quak 54’, Faris Ramli 90’ + 2)

SINGAPORE, 21 January 2014: The LionsXII successfully progressed into the second round of the 2014 Malaysia FA Cup after a 3-0 thrashing of KL DRB-Hicom FC in front of 3,080 fans at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday night.

Sufian Anuar opened the scoring on 28 minutes before substitute Gabriel Quak added a second nine minutes after the break. Faris Ramli put the icing on the cake a couple of minutes into injury time as the Singaporean side picked up their first competitive win of the season.

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad made two changes to the starting lineup against Pahang FA the last time out – bringing in Faris and Syafiq Zainal for Quak and Khairul Amri respectively.

The duo flanked Sufian in a front three of an attacking-minded 4-3-3 formation.

Despite that, it was the Malaysian Premier League side which was the more dangerous side in the opening half-hour.

Nigerian forward Ogunboye Iyanu posed an real physical threat to the LionsXII defence and could have found the opening goal if not for Faritz Hameed’s last-ditch block in front of goal.

Khairul Naim saw his freekick sail just over the bar, while Ashadi Yusoff’s ambitious volley from outside the box was tipped over by Izwan Mahbud.

In contrast, the LionsXII had difficulties getting into the DRB-Hicom box with the only opportunity falling to Faris, who curled his shot disappointingly over.

However they managed to get a lucky break just before the half-hour mark. Via an innocuous long ball, Sufian pounced on some defensive uncertainty inside the opponents’ box to poke the ball past a stranded Mohd Jibrail in the DRB-Hicom goal.

The reigning Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions had another couple of opportunities to extend the lead thereafter, but were denied by some heroic defending from the MPL side.

Coach Fandi swooped to bring on Quak for the ineffectual Syafiq after the break, but it was DRB-Hicom who started the half the better side once again.

Naim fired another freekick just over, while Ashadi Yusoff’s long-range grounder was just about deflected wide by a LionsXII shirt.

Just like the first half, those misses would come back to haunt them as the LionsXII manage to find their mark again on 54 minutes.

A superb outside-foot pass from Zulfahmi Arifin just inside the DRB-Hicom half picked out the run of Sufian. The latter surged into the box, lured Jibrail out of goal before releasing Quak who could not miss from less than three yards out.

That was the 23-year-old’s first-ever goal for the LionsXII.

There were some defensive concerns for Fandi towards the last 20 minutes with both Safuwan Baharudin and Faritz Hameed limping off with knee and toe injuries respectively.

Madhu Mohana and Raihan Rahman were called upon to replace the duo and they went about their job at the back with minimal fuss.

Meanwhile in attack, electric winger Faris was coming alive in the closing stages. Having seen his close-range shot came off the post on 86 minutes, he made amends in injury time.

A superb run from the halfway line created space for Sufian to fire a fierce shot which Jibrail could only parry, and the 21-year-old followed up to slot the leather home from a tight angle.

That rounded off a satisfying night of football for the LionsXII who will return to MSL action this Saturday as they take on Selangor FA.

Fandi: The boys showed character tonight

At the post-match press conference, coach Fandi afforded a slight smile as he witnessed his side bouncing back from Friday night’s defeat in style.

“First and foremost, it’s important to win tonight,” he said.

“It was a scrappy first half which could have gone either way. The opponents played some hard-running football and harassed everybody.

I thought the boys showed character tonight, even though they were tackled a bit hard at times. They were a bit nervy at the start; the midfielders were jittery at times, fortunately the backline stood up very well and we bucked up in the second half. We were looking for that second goal so badly.”

With the game against Selangor coming up just four days later, the 51-year-old is pleased to see his side hitting the right notes in the scoring department.

“It’s definitely a morale booster for Saturday, especially for the midfielders and forwards who created the opportunities,” he said.

“I think it was quite fair for us to get three goals tonight, hopefully we can carry this form forward to play against bigger teams.”

He also reserved special praise for Sufian who put in a superb shift in his lone forward role and was involved in all three goals.

“For me, it’s very good to have Sufian because we don’t have a big striker,” he assessed.

“He shields, he fights, he makes space and run for others; he really worked his socks off. Hopefully he can polish up his finishing even more.”

The only dampener from this victory was perhaps the fact that there were two new names on the injury table.

“Safuwan got a knock on the knee, while Faritz got stepped on the toe,” shared Fandi.

“Hopefully they’ll be fine.”

Meanwhile his opposite counterpart G Torayraju lamented the drop in performances levels from his side in the second half.

“We had the chances in the first half, but we could not make use of them,” he shared.

“In the second half, the performance was not up to mark. If it was, the margin could have been smaller than 3-0.”

However the 57-year-old remained graceful in defeat as he lavished praise on the LionsXII’s display.

“They’re the better team,” he admitted.

“They’re young, have better fitness and harass for every ball. Their boys were 100% committed and follow instructions of their coach. The teamwork is there and I predict that this team will go far.”

There is no time for the LionsXII to rest on their laurels as they will take on Selangor FA next in an MSL encounter.

The game has been moved back to their beloved Jalan Besar fortress and it will be played on Saturday, January 25th at 7.45pm.

Do come on down to support the boys as they aim to achieve their first win of the new MSL season!