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  • January 17, 2014
  • • 20:45
  • • Stadium Darulmakmur, Kuantan
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Pahang 1-0 LionsXII: Conti fires Tok Gajahs to victory

Pahang 1-0 LionsXII: Conti fires Tok Gajahs to victory

The Star

Matias Conti's solitary goal in the second half made the difference as Pahang clinched a well-deserved victory over LionsXII

Pahang started the game on fire, with Dickson Nwakaeme justifying his inclusion in the first team within the first 30 seconds. He barges down the left byline, makes his way into the box, and almost got a shot on target, before Safuwan Baharuddin cleared the ball away to safety.

With a solid and boisterous crowd backing, Pahang continued to dominate the game in the early minutes, utilizing their flankers to push on the offensive. Gopinathan, who is known for his pace, was actively involved in build up play, and found space on the left flank quite often.

On the 12th minute mark, Azidan Sharuddin whipped in a free kick into the box, and Damion Stewart did brilliantly to connect with it. However, his header went above the bar. And just moments after that, Dickson was substituted off for Matias Conti due to an injury.

At this point of time, that substitution seemed like a blow for Pahang, although it was the Argentinean that eventually won the game for them. Minutes after him coming on, Gopinathan sprinted down the left flank before crossing into the box, but Conti's attempt went wide off the post.

On the 25th minute, Pahang almost broke the deadlock through Azamuddin Akil. The forward played a cheeky one-two with Azidan just outside the box, before firing a shot straight at Izwan.

LionsXII were also given a golden chance on the 26th minute mark, as Sufian Anuar did well to find Khairul Amri from the left flank, but the latter's attempt was blocked off by Khairul Amri. Damion Stewart then had a glorious chance to give Pahang the lead, but his attempt, after a smart backheel from Conti, sailed just over the cross bar.

Just before half time, Faritz raced down the right wing, before crossing into the Pahang penalty box. Hafiz stepped up to make connection with it, but his volley was excellently blocked away by Zesh Rehman. At half time, the score was still 0-0, despite Pahang dominating most of it.

After the break, Fandi Ahmad brought on Faris Ramli for Gabrial Quak, but Pahang picked up from where they left off in the first half. Matias Conti should have put Pahang 1-0 up on th 53rd minute mark, if not for Izwan's acrobatic save that prevented Conti's header from going into the back of the net.

But just five minutes later, Conti redeemed himself by firing home a rebound, after Izwan initially saved a top attempt from Malik. The goal gave Pahang much more confidence, and the crowd was sent into raptures as well.

On the 61st minute, Safuwan's header from inside the six-yard box went over the bar, before Nazrul's half volley three minutes later was tipped way by Khairul. And with Gopinathan consistently frustrating the LionsXII defence, Zulfahmi Ariffin was shown a yellow card on the 68th minute for an altercation with the winger.

But despite LionsXII having a game to chase, Pahang continued to showcase their superiority, and Conti almost doubled their lead on the 81st minute, if not for a last-gasp clearance from Afiq Yunos. Three minutes later, Conti's attempt from the right byline blazed above the crossbar.

With five minutes left on the clock, the match tempo visibly slowed down, although LionsXII continued to push more men upfront. The defensive combination of Zesh Rehman and Damion Stewart were rock solid throughout the game, and LionsXII never looked like they were going to break them down late in the game.

And when the final whistle was blown, Pahang clinched the Charity Shield trophy as well as three vital points in the first match of the season.

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