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Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Sports

Sufian's 15-min show

The New Paper | Ali Kasim | Friday, Apr 18, 2014

LionsXII's Sufian Anuar reacts after scoring a goal during the match at the Jalan Besar Stadium on 15 April 2014.

Some of the players raised their hands to the heavens and others roared in delight when they heard referee Syed Azhar Syed Kamar blow the final whistle.

Minutes later, each member of the LionsXII squad waited on the sidelines, waiting to congratulate goal hero Sufian Anuar with either a hug or a high-five.

Much later, well after the side's 4-1 victory over Malaysian Super League (MSL) leaders Pahang at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night, supersub Sufian was talking to The New Paper alongside the team bus when coach Fandi Ahmad tapped him on the back. "Well done lah, hero," Fandi said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Sufian was the toast of the LionsXII, after firing in three goals in the final 15 minutes to floor the Malaysian east coast giants and blow much needed wind in the sails of Fandi's side, after the shock 1-0 loss to lowly Sime Darby at home on Saturday.

For Sufian, it was much-needed relief after a frustrating four months without a goal.

Seconds after coming as a replacement for the luckless Khairul Nizam, who suffered yet another injury, it appeared the striker's nightmare season would continue.

Unmarked in the box, he ballooned a glorious chance in the 58th minute.

At that moment, Sufian was thinking: "Oh no, not again."

FRUSTRATION

"It's been such a long time since I scored a goal, I was starting to get real frustrated," said the 27-year-old.

"Finally, man. I thank god for this moment. He gave me the rezeki (luck in Malay) tonight - three times."

Things weren't looking too rosy for the LionsXII inside the first 25 minutes.

Trailing 1-0 to a set-piece goal by Pahang defender Damion Stewart, the Singapore side looked toothless in attack, much like they did on Saturday.

It wasn't until captain Safuwan Baharudin's equaliser that the team played with confidence.

The home side made a decent start to the second half, and when Sufian scored his first - touching home Khairul Amri's deflected shot - the LionsXII never looked back.

Fandi's men capitalised on the counter-attack and Sufian capped the win with another two goals in injury time.

"Amri set up two of my goals. Without him and my teammates, I wouldn't have scored," Sufian said. "I just hope my performance continues to improve. I hope the fans give me and the team support instead of criticism."

Despite Sufian's hat-trick, Fandi (left), 51, said he has not decided on who will start alongside Amri in attack against Selangor on Saturday.

The MSL champions will leave for Shah Alam on Friday and will be without defender Faritz Hameed, who is suspended after picking up his third yellow card of the season last night.

"We will look at Nizam's condition before deciding," Fandi said. "I think you saw 100 per cent effort from every player tonight. Before, that wasn't the case.

"We deserved this win. We fought back from a goal down, piled on the pressure and I'm really relieved that we found our scoring touch again."

This article was published on April 16, 2014 in The New Paper.

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