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Terence Ong
Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

Sports

LIONSXII FINALLY STRIKE

The Straits Times | Terence Ong | Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

They battle hard to clinch spot in Malaysia Cup on final day

T-Team 0

LionsXII 1

COACH Fandi Ahmad had demanded desire and hunger and that was precisely what his LionsXII showed against T-Team last night in their final Malaysian Super League match for the season.

Boosted too by a red card shown to the hosts' goalkeeper, the Singapore visitors came away with a 1-0 victory through a Faris Ramli goal at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium.

Crucially, the result also secures an eighth-place finish for the defending champions in the 12-team league, which hands them a place in the Malaysia Cup in August.

Said Fandi: "The important thing tonight was that the fighting spirit was there."

"This is not an easy place to come to, and we were lucky with the red card (to T-Team goalkeeper Shahril Saa'ri)."

Having been accused by Fandi of lacking the stomach to withstand hungrier opponents after the shock loss to Perak at Jalan Besar, the LionsXII were keen to prove they still had verve, as they went for every challenge wholeheartedly.

In the fourth minute, Baihakki Khaizan was involved in a heated exchange with Indonesian forward Patrich Wanggai, after the latter landed his studs on the defender's shin while challenging for a loose ball.

By then, Baihakki could have put the visitors ahead had he managed to keep his shot on target from inside the box off a Zulfahmi Arifin free kick.

The Titans had chances of their own as well, with Rwanda international Jimmy Mulisa forcing a great save from Izwan Mahbud after dancing his way past the LionsXII defence.

But the game was turned on its head in the 54th minute when Shahril was sent off for a wild challenge outside the box on Sufian Anuar, who was through on goal.

The LionsXII capitalised on the extra-man advantage in the 65th minute when Faris, who had surged into the penalty area with Khairul Amri and Sufian Anuar, curled past Wan Azraie Teh for his fourth league goal of the season.

Needing a draw to stay in the league, the result consigned the Titans to relegation into the second-tier Malaysia Premier League, along with PKNS.

Johor Darul Takzim were crowned MSL champions when they defeated Sarawak 1-0.

The result puts them on 44 points, three clear of closest rivals Selangor, who could only draw 2-2 with PKNS.


This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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