Sufian stars as LionsXII grab first win of season
The striker scored the opener and had a hand in the other two goals as new coach Fandi Ahmad got his maiden victory in charge of the Malaysian Super League champions
By Teng Kiat | Goal Singapore
Goals from Sufian Anuar, Gabriel Quak and Faris Ramli ensured progress to the next round at Bishan Stadium, which served as a temporary home due to renovation works at their Jalan Besar fortress.
Fandi made two changes to the side that started against Pahang FA in their 1-0 loss last Friday, as the LionsXII sought victory against their Malaysian Premier League opponents.
With strikers Khairul Amri and Shahfiq Ghani only fit enough to start on the bench, Syafiq Zainal made his season’s debut. The forward flanked lone target-man Sufian along with Faris, who was handed a start ahead of Quak.
Both teams looked evenly matched in the opening stages as Sufian worked tirelessly upfront, while Ogunboye Ezekiel looked to make a nuisance of himself at the other end.
It took the hosts 14 minutes to genuinely threaten their opponents. Faris brilliantly cushioned a long ball first-time into Hafiz Sujad’s path, who surged into the box only to see his cut-back cleared before Zulfahmi Arifin could reach it.
The visitors were holding their own though and Fakhrullah Rosli should have broken the deadlock in the 25th minute, but the striker’s poor effort dribbled wide from six yards.
Three minutes later, Sufian made them pay. Refusing to give up on a long punt, the 26-year-old chased the ball and managed to poke it past goalkeeper Jibrail Bahrin into the far corner.
The former Warriors striker could have extended the lead in the 36th minute when he raced clear, but dithered on the ball and allowed Jibrail to make the block.
Quak, who came on at the start of the second half for Syafiq, made his mark in the game eight minutes later as Sufian turned provider.
Zulfahmi released Sufian with a lovely ball from the outside of his foot and the latter unselfishly squared it for Quak to tap in his first goal for the defending league champions.
Jibrail then had to be alert to push over a well-struck free-kick from Zulfahmi, who had become more influential in the second half after being withdrawn into a deeper central role.
Faris was then culpable of squandering a glorious chance to put the game beyond doubt in the 84th minute when he picked his spot near the penalty mark, only to see his shot hit the post and bounce behind.
But the winger had the last laugh deep in injury time when he turned in the rebound from a tight angle after Sufian’s shot had been spilled, rounding off what turned out to be a comfortable victory for the LionsXII in the end.
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