The LIONSXII theme song

Supersub Fazrul lifts LionsXII to second in Group D

Supersub Fazrul lifts LionsXII to second in Group D

LionsXII 1-0 Sarawak FA

(Fazrul Nawaz 63′)

SINGAPORE, 18 September 2013: It was a game which they simply needed to win to keep their Malaysia Cup dreams alive.

And the LionsXII successfully navigated this task by overcoming Sarawak FA 1-0 in front of 6,834 fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium in their penultimate group D game.

A solitary goal by substitute Fazrul Nawaz, six minutes after his entry, ensured they lifted themselves to second in the table.

Coach V Sundramoorthy made three changes to the starting eleven against Perak FA. Madhu Mohana started at right back in place of Faritz Hameed, Zulfahmi Arifin got the nod to partner Isa Halim in midfield after impressing as a substitute in the last match, while Shahfiq Ghani returned from suspension to start as the lone forward.

Despite having most of the possession in the first half, they were unable to stretch the Sarawak backline and their goalkeeper Sani Kamsani.

With the duo of Junior Eldstal and Guy Bwele forming a good midfield screen, the visitors neutralized LionsXII’s attacking threat.

Gabriel Quak and Faris Ramli were struggling to find headway on the flanks, while Shahfiq had to constantly drop back to keep the passing movement going.

Faris scuffed the first opportunity of the night wide in the fifth minute after Gabriel earned the ball off a Sarawak shirt.

Hariss Harun and Zulfahmi then saw their ambitious long-range efforts going over, while Baihakki Khaizan had a couple of opportunities from deep aerial balls easily smothered by Kamsani.

Shahfiq could have put the LionsXII in front on the stroke of half time after Safuwan Baharudin was brought down by Joseph Kalang on the edge of the box.

But his retaken freekick, after Sarawak defender Ramesh Lai rushed out for his first attempt, was unable to beat the eight-man wall.

Half time saw Sundram introducing captain Shahril Ishak to replace Faris, and the 29’s year-old’s presence immediately lifted the LionsXII’s game.

Playing on the right wing with Zulfahmi pushing up just behind Shahfiq, they began to make inroads into the Sarawak backline.

Zulfahmi saw his deflected cross clawed out by Kamsani, while Safuwan saw his 60-yard punt tipped over by the custodian.

Madhu also headed over from Shahfiq’s outswinging corner, before the latter scuffed his shot completely from a Shahril cutback.

Sensing the opportunity to nick a goal, Sundram proceeded to bring on Fazrul Nawaz for in the 57th minute.

And the 28-year-old took just six minutes to get off the mark.

Baihakki strode into midfield after winning the ball off Sarawak attacker Bobby Gonzales and released a superb diagonal pass into the attacking third. That move caught the visitors’ backline flatfooted as Fazrul was left unmarked to slot home a composed finish inside the post with Kamsani left rooted to the spot.

With 27 minutes left to play, the LionsXII managed to close out the game without major incidents.

Safuwan and Shakir were alert on separate occasions to deny Kalang’s passes from going through, while Sarawak forward Muamer Salibasic lashed past the post after riding a couple of challenges.

Eldstal had a final opportunity deep into injury time, but his header from a long freekick was unable to trouble Izwan Mahbud at goal.

Eventually it was the LionsXII who picked up their second win of the campaign to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive.

The LionsXII now leapfrog Perak FA into second place having scored more goals, while Sarawak stays top of the table.

All three teams have the same amount of points, with Kedah FA lagging just a point behind. And it will certainly be an interesting last matchday come this Saturday.

Sundram: The job is not done yet

At the post-match press conference, Sundram wore a look of satisfaction after witnessing his side claim victory in a ‘tight’ game.

“Chances were limited in this game,” he said.

“Sarawak also had a couple of good opportunities and the game could have gone either way tonight.

I’m just happy to see Fazrul score tonight. It was a good finish by him and he showed he is able to help us upfront.”

Despite all the positivity surrounding this result, the former national player is keen to emphasize that the ‘job is not done yet’.

“It will be hard when we play Kedah in the last group game,” he admitted.

“Although they’re a division lower, we have seen in the Cup that teams in there are just as strong as those in the MSL (Malaysian Super League).

They will also be under pressure to beat us thus we need to be tactically smart and organized in order to get something from the game.

This win (against Sarawak) gives us a strong purpose for our journey in this competition. When we take the flight to Alor Setar on Friday, the boys have something to motivate them and ponder upon.

I’ll assess the injury situation tomorrow and I’ll definitely field the best team on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, his opposite counterpart Roberts Alberts lamented on the defensive lapse that led to the deciding goal.

“I thought we held them quite well tonight,” he assessed.

“However it was through our own mistake that we lost the game.

We knew their playing style and we tried to stop their strengths. However we didn’t play with enough width nor did we open their defence enough. That made it easy for them to get the ball back.”

With the two qualifying spots to be decided on the final matchday, the former Home United coach is looking forward to an ‘interesting’ conclusion to the group stage.

“It will not be easy for everyone,” he noted.

“We have to recover from the travelling and will only have one day to prepare for our next game.

Similarly, it will also be hard for LionsXII who will have a difficult away game against Kedah. It is a totally different atmosphere and they can expect a hot reception from the home fans.

Anything can happen on Saturday.”

The LionsXII’s last Group D match against Kedah FA will be played in Alor Setar on Saturday, 21st September at 8.45pm.

Do follow the LionsXII Facebook page on matchday as we bring you the ‘LIVE’ updates of their bid to keep their Malaysia Cup dreams alive! Tune in to StarHub SuperSports Arena Channel 201 to catch all the action on Saturday!