LionsXII lift MSL trophy in front of home fans
LionsXII 4-0 Felda United
(Azrul Ahmad OG 47', Shahril Ishak 58', Fazrul Nawaz 61', Shahfiq Ghani 84')
SINGAPORE, 2 July 2013: Three points was exactly what the LionsXII needed to seal the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title and they certainly did it in style as they defeated relegated Felda United 4-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in front of a capacity crowd which included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Azrul Ahmad's own goal right after the half-time break coupled with goals from Shahril Ishak, Fazrul Nawaz and substitute Shahfiq Ghani ensured that the LionsXII maintain their unbeaten record at home.
LionsXII head coach V. Sundramoorthy welcomed winger Nazrul Nazari back from suspension while opting to start with Izzdin Shafiq alongside Hariss Harun in the absence of midfield hardman Isa Halim.
The first half belonged to the home side as they created a string of chances but just could not find the breakthrough.
A half-cleared cross five minutes in fell to Izzdin outside the box but the 22-year-old could only balloon his shot well over the bar.
The LionsXII were denied a penalty a minute later after Shahril was tripped by Azrul Azmi inside the box. Hariss Harun's shot was then deflected into goal by Fazrul but the latter was adjudged to have been offside.
The intensity of the game dropped significantly thereafter and Azuan Zain's Felda conjured their first attempts on goal as Amar Rohidan first hit a low shot wide from 30 yards before Felda's striker Leonel St. Preaux sent a stinging shot straight into the gloves of Izwan Mahbud.
The home fans were up on their feet again on 43 minutes after Fazrul slipped Nazrul Nazari through on goal but the latter was unfortunately foiled by the legs of Felda's goalkeeper Rozaimie Rohim.
For all their dominance in the first half, it was no surprise when the floodgates opened up in the second half as the LionsXII found themselves ahead a minute after the break. Under pressure from Fazrul, Azrul Ahmad could only divert Shahril's freekick into his own net.
It was a sign of things to come and the league leaders duly doubled their lead as Shahril turned provider to scorer in the 58th minute. A botched clearance from Azrul Azmi saw Faris Ramli's low cross fall kindly to the feet of the LionsXII skipper who finished past a hapless Rozaimie to make it 2-0.
Minutes later, Fazrul made it 3-0 as he tapped home from close range following Nazrul's knockdown inside the box.
Three was not enough for the LionsXII and the scoring was completed six minutes from time when substitute Shahfiq latched onto Shahril's through pass before coolly slotting past Rozaimie.
Sundram: "These boys have outshone the 1994 Double-winning squad"
Speaking at the post-match press conference, a clearly delighted Sundram gave credit to his boys for their effort throughout the course of the season.
"My boys have tried their best throughout (the season)," he said.
"There were many challenges but they have pulled through and here they are, winning it in front of the fans and (most importantly) the Prime Minister (Lee Hsien Loong).
When asked about comparisons between his side and the 1994 Double-Winning squad, Sundram boldly declared: "These boys have outshone the 1994 team.
"Apart from a couple of experienced players (in the team), the rest of the team are under 23 years of age and I had a (relatively) rookie team with me."
Commenting on the match that had just concluded, the Dazzler remarked: "There were nerves (from my players) but once they settled down, the first goal came and everything fell in place.
"In the first half, we had chances but I think the boys were a bit nervous. I told them (at half-time) that goals can be scored within seconds if they kept calm and they managed to find the first goal."
Having successfully secured the league title in his second year as LionsXII coach, Sundram will now shift his focus on the Malaysia Cup campaign which starts in August.
"It is definitely going to be a tough draw. Let's see if we can make it to the quarter-finals before we see how things go. We will have a chance if we remain focused," he concluded.
The LionsXII will conclude their MSL season against newly-crowned Malaysia FA Cup champions Kelantan FA away on Saturday, July 6 in Kota Bahru.
Do continue to support the boys in their pursuit for MSL glory!