Kuala Lumpur FA 0
After a 3-3 draw with Kedah FA, LionsXII took another bitter blow to their title hopes with an insipid 0-0 draw against bottom side Kuala Lumpur FA.
The result may have given them a four point lead at the top of the table but second-placed and defending champions Kelantan FA has five games in hand. The LionsXII could find themselves behind by as much as eleven points should the Red Warriors gain maximum points from those five games.
With several changes made to the side including the inclusion of regular goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma’at, the LionsXII looked out of sorts in the first fifteen minutes and could count themselves lucky to not concede in the ninth minute.
Afiq Azmi had an early chance after Stanley Bernard had turned Shaiful Esah easily down the right wing, and Bernard’s cross found the striker unmarked inside the box. However, in an attempt similar to Kelantan’s Chanturu’s goal against the LionsXII two weeks back, it flashed just wide to the relief of the Singaporeans.
While the LionsXII did have three great chances later in the first half, with all of it coming via attacking midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, the tempo of the game matched the atmosphere of the stadium.
Despite having much of the possession in the first half – sixty-two percent – the away side’s final passes let them down again and again. A lack of movement from Khairul Nizam and Safirul Sulaiman did not help, while Khairul Amri looked subdued on the right, rarely taking his man on, something he did often with success before his long injury layoff.
The lack of penetration on the Lions’ part clearly boosted the confidence of the home side, who came out of the halftime break believing that a win wasn’t that hard to achieve.
With the home side contented to sit deep instead of playing their usual high pressing game, Zakaria Charuru found himself left with acres of space. He almost made the LionsXII pay the price for that, with a strike from twenty-five yards out which went just the wrong side of the post.
With the Malaysian Super League leaders looking lifeless, head coach V.Sundramoorthy opted to send on strike pair Sufian Anuar and Agu Casmir in a bid to try add some impetus to the attack.
Those moves almost paid off, as both Agu and Sufian had chances cleared off the line in seventy ninth and eighty ninth minute respectively. Sufian in particular, had the last chance of the game after making a great run.
His shot however was quickly charged down by two defenders and went into the arms of Kuala Lumpur’s custodian Zahid Ahmad after a deflection took away the pace of the ball much like the LionsXII title hopes.
Changes made into the starting lineup were largely enforced, due to the suspension to defenders Madhu Mohana, Baihaikki Khaizan, and Sevki Sha’ban.
Captain Shahril Ishak meanwhile, did not travel up with the team after sustaining an injury, although he would not have travelled too as his wife is expecting. Juma’at Jantan was also rested as a precaution.
That meant that Hariss Harun slotted into the heart of defence, alongside Abdil Qayyim who made his first start. The former Home United defender though, would go on and have a nervy game.
Head coach Sundram clearly had that in mind, and as a result set up his charges to not play their usual pressing game, in a bid to protect his back four.
That however, played a part in a poor showing upfront, as the Lions did not create much until the introduction of Sufian Anuar and Agu Casmir after seventy eighth and seventy second minutes respectively.
The LionsXII will host Sarawak next Tuesday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Kuala Lumpur: Mohd Zahid Ahmad (GK), Muhd Syafiq Johari, Afiq Azmi, Khairul Anwar Syahfie (Nur Hakim 88’), Aslam Najumudeen, Okine Emmanuel, Arman Fareez Ali, Zakaria Charara (S. Sivaraj 80’), Azrul Azmi, Stanley Bernard (Khairrulanwar Jamil 84’), Ahmad Dashila. Unused subs: Ahmad Jihad, Badrul Hisyam Azmi, Amirul Abu Seman, Aiman Syazwan.
LionsXII: Hyrulnizam Juma’at (GK), Shaiful Esah, Isa Halim, Shahdan Sulaiman, Khairul Amri (Sufian Anuar 78’), Hariss Harun (C), Irwan Shah, Khairul Nizam (Agu Casmir 72’), Firdaus Kasman, Safirul Sulaiman, Abdil Qaiyyim Mutalib (Raihan Rahman 77’). Unused subs: Izwan Mahbud, Taufiq Rahmat, Yasir Hanapi.
Yellow cards: Muhd Syafiq Johari (Kuala Lumpur) Safirul Sulaiman (LionsXII)