The LIONSXII theme song

Sufian’s header cancelled out by Balaban’s gem

Sufian’s header cancelled out by Balaban’s gem

The magical fairy tale of Sufian Anuar continued as the LIONSXII secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Jalan Besar Stadium against Selangor in front of 7,500 fans on a humid Tuesday night.

Inspirational captain Shahril Ishak was left out of the starting line-up at the very last minute as he was not 100% fit and it was down to former Home United forward Sufian Anuar to carry the goalscoring weight on his shoulders which he duly obliged with the the LIONSXII’s opening goal in the 61st minute.

Despite coming off a good run of form, V.Sundramoorthy’s men were lacklustre in the first-half, allowing Selangor the opportunity to take control of the game and star signing Bosko Balaban had the best opportunity of the opening half in the 27th minute with a header that took a combination of Sevki Sha’ban, Hariss Harun and Shakir Hamzah to clear the danger.

Two minutes later, LIONSXII were dealt a blow when right winger Yasir Hanapi had to come off due to an injury with Khairul Nizam coming on to provide another attacking option for the home side.

The rest of the half ended with neither team managing to breach the defences and V.Sundramoorthy took the liberty to make a tactical change first as he brought on Firdaus Kasman in place of a tiring Madhu Mohana to add more steel into the midfield.

Kasman’s introduction seemed to work wonders as the LIONSXII started the second-half with a lot more attacking verve than they showed in the first. However, it was down to Hyrulnizam Juma’at in goal who singlehandedly kept the Selangor strikers from scorching the back of the net as he made one save after another to give the injured Izwan Mahbud a run for his money as the numero uno of the LIONSXII outfit.

Several attacking moves almost breached the Selangor defence in the next few minutes before it all came together in the 61st minute when a deadly Safirul Sulaiman cross from the left found Sufian Anuar who rampaged his way into the box to rifle home a header that sent the crowd into delirium.

Despite containing the visitors to shots from way out, a free-kick conceded in the 81st minute gave former Aston Villa striker Bosko Balaban the perfect opportunity to net the equaliser and he duly did with a well executed free-kick just outside the box.

A draw was probably a well-deserved result for both teams and the eagerly awaited clash between the two playmaking maestros in Shahdan Sulaiman and Safiq Rahim did not materialize into the battle royale that was expected. Two great teams had to settle for a point each on the night and with that, the LIONSXII continued their surge up and table and are now in second position behind league leaders Kelantan.

Selangor head coach, Mr Irfan Bakti Abu Salim said at the post-match press conference: “I am not very satisfied with the result as I feel that we dominated possession at about 70% ahead of the home team. However, I have to give credit to the LIONSXII as they never lost their shape throughout the 90 minutes and their players were tactically very sound without making much errors like getting out of position. Overall, I would have to say that we got a point and we will look forward to our next game and continue to build on this.”

LIONSXII head coach, V.Sundramoorthy was pleased with the point when he spoke to the media after the match.

“With the injury crisis we are suffering at the moment, one point against this team is a good result. Selangor in my opinion is one of the best teams in Malaysia at the moment and they have quality all around the pitch with players who can make or break the game with their passing abilities. We had many heroes out on the pitch today with Hariss leading the defence, Isa running his socks off in midfielder and Sufian Anuar battling upfront. I have to say that our goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at had a wonderful game and despite not having started most of the matches this season, he was great between the sticks and I am pleased for the boy.”, quipped the master tactician.

LIONSXII Starting Line-up: Hyrulnizam Juma’at(GK), Isa Halim, Madhu Mohana(Firdaus Kasman 45′), Shahdan Sulaiman, Hariss Harun(C), Irwan Shah, Sevki Sha’ban, Shakir Hamzah, Yasir Hanapi(Khairul Nizam 29′), Safirul Sulaiman(Taufiq Rahmat 78′), Sufian Anuar

Selangor Starting Line-up: G Jeevanantham(GK), Razman Roslan, Asrarudin Putra, Ramez Dayoub, Safiq Rahim, Bosko Balaban, P Gunalan, Amri Yahyah(C), Azidan Sarudin(R Surendren 70′), Amirulhadi Zainal(K Gurusamy 61′), Fitri Shazwan.