LionsXII through to the quarterfinals
Needing a win in their final group stage game, the LionsXII comfortably beat Kedah FA 3-1 to complete an unlikely turnaround and reach the last eight of the competition
By Ahmad Khan
It was a match both teams needed to win to guarantee a passage into the quarterfinals. In the end, it was the LionsXII who emerged victorious as they beat a hapless Kedah FA 3-1 at the Darul Aman Stadium on Saturday night.
Without a victory in their opening three games, LionsXII were on a mini-revival having dragged themselves back into contention for qualifying after two home victories on the trot.
Captain Hariss Harun led the LionsXII charge with a great header before Baihakki Khaizan doubled their lead with a simple tap in. Alen Guc gave the home team some hope but a second-half screamer from Hafiz Sujad ensured their progress into the last eight.
Both teams started the match at a lightning quick pace, and it was the LionsXII who conjured the first chance of the match after only two minutes.
Hafiz found space on the left and he squared the ball to Faris Ramli, whose shot beat the goalkeeper but bounced off the post.
Kedah dominated early on, trying to find a hole in the LionsXII defense but were unsuccessful in doing so. Their domination did not last long though, as the Lions soon found their feet and took the lead on 24 minutes.
Faris was the provider as he sent a peach of a cross from the left for Hariss to head into the net. Abdul Hadi got a touch but he could not keep the ball out.
And the LionsXII soon doubled their lead 15 minutes later via a trademark set-piece play. Shahfiq Ghani’s free-kick reached Safuwan Baharudin and he headed the ball back to Baihakki, who tapped it into the empty net. It was a typical set-piece goal that had proven to work time and again during the Malaysia Super League.
However, Kedah dragged themselves back into the game on the stroke of halftime with a goal from marksman Guc. The Croatia, who had scored both goals in the 2-2 draw against LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium, reached the end of a Syafiq Ahmad cross and headed the ball beyond the reach of Izwan Mahbud.
Trailing by a goal at half-time, Kedah started the second half in search of an equaliser, with Guc and Baddrol Bakhtiar going close on a couple of occasions.
Just when they thought an equaliser was going to come, LionsXII scored on the counter attack. Hafiz received the ball in the Kedah half and struck a screamer from outside the penalty box beyond Hadi’s reach.
It was all Kedah after that as they tried in vain to get back into the game. Guc came the closest when his free-kick hit the bar, while Khyril Muhymeen headed wide on two occasions.
In the end, the LionsXII hung on pretty comfortably as they ensured their passage into the last eight, keeping the dream of the double alive.
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