After falling behind to Amiridzwan Taj's early header, the Malaysia Super League champions came back strongly as Khairul Amri equalised before the centre-back knocked home a winner
After crashing out of the Malaysia FA Cup against Pahang FA and failing to score against Terengganu FA in a goal-less draw at home, the LionsXII were desperate to get their season back on track with a win against an in-form ATM side.
But they fell behind to an early goal after Amiridzwan Tajuddin’s header gave his side the lead, and there was a risk that the home side was going to run riot against the reigning Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions.
But the visitors dug deep and came back strongly in the second half, with Khairul Amri’s strike early in the second period paving way for an exciting end-to-end half as both sides tried to find the winner. Eventually, it was Afiq who had the final say as he scored deep in injury time to secure all three points for the LionsXII.
It wasn't smooth sailing for the LionsXII though, as ATM got off to the perfect start, taking the lead after only four minutes when Amiridzwan rose unchallenged at a corner to head the ball powerfully down into the back of the net.
The home side then almost doubled the lead on 15 minutes when Christie Jayaseelan’s cross evaded the entire LionsXII defence and reached Hairuddin Omar, whose shot went just wide.
Up till then, the LionsXII were struggling to get into the game and keep the ball, but they slowly grew in stature and soon began to dominate proceedings, albeit without really creating any clear-cut chances.
Their first real chance came in extraordinary fashion just after the half-hour mark as Safuwan Baharudin saw Syed Adney off his line and thumped the ball from his own half towards goal, forcing the ATM goalkeeper to scramble back and tip it onto the bar and over for a corner.
The LionsXII then had an excellent opportunity to equalise five minutes before the break when a good piece of play on the left between Isa Halim and Hafiz Sujad released the latter, who fired narrowly wide off the far post. Then, Shahfiq Ghani’s free-kick from 35 yards out reached Safuwan, who flicked the ball over the bar.
However, just as ATM stung the visitors in the opening minutes of the game, the LionsXII inflicted the same damage at the start of the second half asl Amri struck on 47 minutes.
Sufian Anuar’s flicked ball towards Amri evaded defended Norfazly Alias and the striker curled a low shot into the far corner from the edge of the box to stun the hosts.
ATM then tried to regain the upper hand as Marlon James tried his luck with a free-kick from 30 yards on the 58 minutes, but Izwan Mahbud held his strike comfortably.
Almost immediately, the home side had two glorious chances to take the lead. Substitute Juan Manuel Arostegui’s header was cleared off the line by Safuwan, before James fired just inches wide after being sent clear on goal.
It was end-to-end stuff as minutes later, Amri’s header from yet another Shahfiq free-kick went over the bar.
However, as both sides desperately tried to go for the victory, it was Afiq who had the final say. The centre-back was the first to reach the end of a terrific cross from substitute Zulfahmi Arifin and poked a deft finish past a helpless Adney, sealing a superb comeback victory.