LionsXII 3 (Shahril Ishak 9', Sufian Anuar 28', Baihakki Khaizan 56')
Kedah 3 (Khyril Muhymeen 20', Amar Rohidan 61', Vedran Gerc 64')
"We'll come back stronger, I believe in my boys," said LionsXII head coach V Sundramoorthy after seeing his side allow a two-goal lead to slip and eventually draw 3-3 against visitors, Kedah FA at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
LionsXII had raced to a 3-1 lead courtesy of goals from skipper Shahril Ishak, Sufian Anuar and Baihakki Khaizan as Khyril Muhymeen equalised for the visitors after Shahril's opener. But two goals in the space of four minutes allowed Kedah to pick up a point against the current league leaders.
First-choice goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud returned for the LionsXII as forward Khairul Amri made his home debut in front of a 7,328-strong crowd after a long injury layoff. Meanwhile, the versatile Irwan Shah missed out due to suspension after accumulating a total of four bookings.
Madhu Mohana's long throws were causing problems for the visitors and it was from one of these throws that resulted in the opener in the 9th minute. Madhu's throw from the right was flicked on Baihakki Khaizan, finding Shahril Ishak at the far post and the LionsXII skipper poked the ball home from close range.
Unfortunately for the no. 17, he landed awkwardly and suffered what seemed to be a dislocated shoulder as Sufian Anuar took his place with Baihakki taking over the armband.
Kedah's Khyril Muhymeen then found the equaliser for Kedah on 20 minutes after connecting with Baddrol Bakhtiar's accurate cross from the left, powering home a header into the bottom corner. It gave the visitors some hope but substitute Sufian Anuar made it 2-1 to the home side eight minutes later.
It was a lovely move from the LionsXII as a superb cross from Juma'at Jantan found an onrushing Sufian and the former Home United man headed it into the back of the net, out of the reach of Helmi Elias.
With that, the LionsXII took a 2-1 lead into the break. Within two minutes after the restart, another substitute Yasir Hanapi could have tripled the lead for the home team but a lack of composure saw him send his effort wide after Khairul Nizam had put him through with a deft chip.
Izwan was called into action a minute later, when he had to be alert to tip Abdel Fatah Safi's curler onto the bar for a corner.
Shaiful Esah's free-kick then found the wrong side of the post on 54 before centre-back Baihakki Khaizan made it 3-1 on 56, sending a firm header past Helmi Elias after an accurate free-kick by set-piece specialist Shahdan Sulaiman.
Trailing by two goals, Kedah threw caution to the wind and it paid off with two goals. The first came in the 61st minute after the Lions were caught on the counter. Vedran Gerc, the man who tormented the LionsXII backline all night long, spotted the unmarked Amar Rohidan on his right and sent a square pass across the area. The Kedah midfielder proceeded to strike a sweetly struck effort which sailed into the top corner to reduce the deficit for the visitors.
And it was mission accomplished for the side from Malaysia when Vedran Gerc found the back of the net with yet another accurate shot. The LionsXII backline simply allowed the Croat too much space on the ball and he punished them by firing one into the bottom corner, beating Izwan at his near post to make it 3-all.
At the end of the day, Kedah managed to pull off an amazing comeback to walk away with a point while LionsXII were eventually made to rue dropped points.
With this result, LionsXII remain at the perch of the league table but saw their lead at the top reduced to three points after second-placed Kelantan brushed aside PKNS with a comfortable 3-0 win in a game played on the same day.
"Yes, i was surprised that we managed to (come away with a) draw, especially after they took the lead," said a visibly pleased Wan Jamak.
"It was not easy (at all), playing in this stadium; the pitch and also the atmosphere (played a part) in today's result," he added.
He also admitted that the Jalan Besar pitch was the main concern for him and mentioned that the poor record of the other Malaysian Super League (MSL) teams did worry him.
Sundram, on the other hand, did not look too pleased at the post-match press conference.
"It's tough lah, it's tough" referring to his side's title hopes after the game.
"We have to keep going but it was a disappointing result today. To allow the (3-1) lead to slip (to 3-3), it was very disappointing but we have to pick ourselves up," added the former Singapore international.
The two goals scored by Amar Rohidan and Vedran Gerc were according to Sundram, 'two great strikes' but refused to pin any blame on Izwan Mahbud who conceded three goals upon his return to the side.
When reached for comment after the game, a clearly crestfallen Izwan said: "Any goalkeeper would feel bad if they conceded three goals. All goalkeepers would want clean sheets but i thought my performance today was below-par. I did feel a bit of rustiness here and there."
The LionsXII will next face Kuala Lumpur this Tuesday before playing host to Sarawak at Jalan Besar on the 22nd.
LionsXII: Izwan Mahbud (GK); Shaiful Esah, Baihakki Khaizan, Sevki Sha'ban, Madhu Mohana; Isa Halim, Shahdan Sulaiman, Juma'at Jantan (Yasir Hanapi 37'), Shahril Ishak (C) (Sufian Anuar 12'), Khairul Amri (Raihan Rahman 53'); Khairul Nizam Unused subs: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Agu Casmir, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah
Kedah: Helmi Eliza Elias (GK), Fauzie Nan, Baddrol Bakhtiar (C), Amar Rohidan, Abdel Fatah Safi,. Khairul Helmi Johari, Vedran Gerc, Fazliata Taib, V Thirumurugan, Khyril Muhymeen, Sabre Mat Abu Unused subs: Fiqkry Isa, See Kok Luen, Kamal Azira, Faizal Abu Bakar, Muhaimin Mohamad, Wan Mohd Syukri
Yellow card(s): Sevki Sha'ban, Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana (LionsXII); Amar Rohidan, Vedran Gerc, V Thirumurugan, Khairul Helmi Johari (Kedah)
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