LionsXII ease past T-Team to maintain title charge
LionsXII 3-0 T-Team
( Shahril Ishak 9’, Shakir Hamzah 28’, Fazrul Nawaz 35’)
SINGAPORE, 11 May 2013: It was a yet another perfect night at Jalan Besar Stadium as the LionsXII thrashed T-Team 3-0 to continue their 100% home record.
An hour before the kickoff, nearest challengers ATM FA took over at the summit of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) table with a slender 1-0 victory over Felda United.
However that did little to distract the Singaporean side in their quest to claim the MSL title as coach V Sundrammorthy put out a full-strength lineup.
For T-Team, former Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng provided the lungs from midfield, while new Bosnian forward Damir Ibric showed good touches upfront with the LionsXII having to stay alert at the back.
However they managed to ride out the early anxiety and duly scored on nine minutes with their first real chance of the game.
It started with nippy winger Faris Ramli playing an instinctive one-two with Hariss Harun and sliding the ball into the path of Shahril Ishak in the box.
The skipper did not disappoint the home fans as he held off the attentions of three white shirts before drilling a low shot past T-Team keeper Iqbal Suhimi for his 6th goal of the season.
T-Team tried to muster a response with winger Ahmad Takhiyuddin and Ibric making a couple of good runs but those moves were not shrewd enough to trouble Baihakki Khaizan and company.
With the solid backline, the LionsXII pushed bodies forward and added another two goals in the first half.
After Fazrul Nawaz’s shot was blocked for a corner, Shahril Ishak’s resulting delivery on 28 minutes seemed to be drifting away from the six-yard box before an unmarked Shakir Hamzah popped up to flick home a superb header which arrowed right into the top corner.
Shakir could have added another goal to his name four minutes later, but his headed effort was denied by the offside flag.
By then, LionsXII were creating havoc down the left with Shakir and Faris once again linking up well to earn another corner in the process.
The resulting deadball from Shahril on 35 minutes resulted in another goal as his precise delivery put it on a platter for Fazrul Nawaz to nod past Iqbal in the six-yard box.
The score stayed that way till half time, and the LionsXII were unable to add more goals in the next 45 minutes
Perhaps stung by the heavy-looking scoreline, T-Team came out of the dressing room with a much more forceful performance.
Boateng found himself in the clear on two occasions but was denied by Safuwan and Shakir respectively, while Hasbullah Awang fired one over from long range.
Izwan Mahbud was tested for the first time on 61 minutes as he went down low to push away substitute Shafuan Adli’s 20-yard freekick.
The Titans went the closest five minutes later, as fellow substitute Hafizan Talib picked out the late run of Boateng from the right flank, but the latter could only see his first-time flick crash off the top of the bar.
Sundram decided to switch things around on 69 minutes – bringing on on Hafiz Sujad for the jaded Nazrul Nazari and the move nearly paid instant dividends.
The former Courts Young Lions skipper produced a superb run down the left before cutting back for Hariss Harun whose snapshot was denied by Iqbal’s legs.
With the three points imminently secured, there was even time for rookie keeper Khairulhin Khalid to come on for his first time of MSL action.
The LionsXII could have added the icing on the cake on 89 minutes but Faris’s celebrations after putting away a superb Shahril cross was cut short by the linesman’s flag.
It did not matter in the end though as they ran out 3-0 winners on the night to reclaim pole position in the MSL.
Sundram: It’s important that we got the result
Despite the lack of goals in the second half, Sundram still wore a look of satisfaction at the post-match press conference.
Getting the three points was their ultimate aim which they eventually achieved.
“We wanted to score more,” he admitted.
“But the most important thing is to get the result tonight. We still have six games to go and ATM is breathing down our breaks.
In fact T-Team could have scored one or two, but credit goes to Izwan and the defence (for the clean sheet).”
The most pleasing thing for him was that no players suffered injuries or suspensions ahead of next Friday’s visit to Pahang FA.
“It’s good that we have almost all our players ready for this important game,” he said.
“Pahang is very strong at home in front of 30,000 fans, I think they’re still unbeaten there. But I think they’re beatable if we play the right kind of game.
The boys are growing in confidence after getting results week in week out and they know they are capable of winning.”
Meanwhile for his opposite counterpart Che Ku Marzuki, it was yet another disappointing defeat as his side fell to yet another disappointing defeat.
According to him, the downfall was his side’s inability to defend the LionsXII set-plays.
“I told my players to be careful of their corner kicks,” he said.
“I know they have players like Baihakki who’s very tall but it still happened. It’s the mentality of our defenders again, we lost previously to PKNS and Terengganu in the same way.
The first half was disappointing and I told them to play short passes instead of long balls in the second. Did you see how they played after that?”
The LionsXII will travel back to Singapore after the Pahang game and take on Selangor PKNS on Monday, 27th May.
Do turn up at the Jalan Besar Stadium again to support the boys in their pursuit for glory!