LionsXII saw their jinxed run against Selangor PKNS on Malaysian soil continue when they succumbed 1-0 to a stunning long-range goal by Nazrin Syamsul at Shah Alam Stadium in their Astro Malaysian Super League match on Tuesday.
Their woeful evening, that saw the Singaporeans spurn a few clear-cut chances earlier in the match, ended in greater misery when striker Fazrul Nawaz was sent off on injury time for a tackle from behind on Khairu Azrin Khazali.
The setback ended a two-match winning start for V. Sundramoorthy’s men as their opponents, who played without their foreign imports for this match, lifted themselves off the bottom with their first points of the season.
LionsXII travelled up north without regular Shakir Hamzah, who remained in Singapore due to national service commitments. Left winger Gabriel Quak Jun Yi made his LionsXII debut while fellow midfielder Safirul Sulaiman was restored to the starting eleven in the other flank.
PKNS were deprived of the services of their imports with Liberian striker Patrick Wleh suspended and Tunisian midfielder Helmi Loussaief failing a late fitness test.
Their absence was clearly felt by the hosts as LionsXII had a few close chances to put themselves in front in the first half.
Fazrul saw his shot fly across the face of the PKNS goal before the half-hour while Quak nearly gave himself a dream beginning in a LionsXII shirt with a burst through the middle seven minutes before half-time, only for his shot hit outside his favoured left foot go just past the post.
Then Quak provided a pinpoint cross on the left, only for skipper Shahril Ishak to fail to direct his resulting header on target moments before the break.
The AFF Suzuki Cup Most Valuable Player came close to breaking the deadlock just after the restart when he followed up from a free kick he started with another header that went close.
Quak had a second opportunity to put the visitors in front just before the hour, only for Red Ants skipper Helmi Remeli to close down with a last-ditch tackle inside the box before he could pull the trigger.
With the Singaporeans failing to convert their opportunities, PKNS surged up front sensing a winner was around the horizon in the final 30 minutes of the game.
They were rewarded for their persistence on 77 minutes when second-half substitute Nazrin launched an unstoppable 30-yard drive into the top right corner that gave Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud no chance.
Despite late changes to bolster the attack and pushing centre back Safuwan Baharudin up front in the final moments, the Red Ants never looked like relinquishing the lead they earned.
LionsXII’s frustrations on their inability to break down the stubborn PKNS resistance finally boiled over when they were reduced to ten men after Fazrul’s reckless challenge on Khairu in injury time.