Khairul Nizam's first-half effort gives the Lions 3 hard-earned points against a resolute Johor side in a game marred by fans unrestThe LionsXII survived a second half onslaught by Johor FC to prevail 1-0 at the J-Corp stadium in Pasir Gudang. Forward Khairul Nizam's first-half effort was enough for the Lions and they retained top spot with the victory though the game was marred by crowd unrest late on, and injuries to three Lions players.
The Lions started brighter of the two sides, working the flanks and trying to cause the Johor defence problems.
In the 7th minute, Safuwan Baharudin who scored against Negeri last time out went close with a header but saw Johor keeper Anis Faron tip over acrobatically. As the half wore on Johor grew in confidence and the game became more even. Both teams tried to fashion chances but were let down by poor passing in the final third.
The Lions were adopting a high line and Johor came closest from long range efforts, first from Arturo and then Jabazrin. On 30 minutes, the Lions had another chance with Sevki Sha'ban flicking the ball on from a Madhu Mohana throw only for Safuwan to head agonizingly over.
The deadlock was finally broken on 41 minutes. Irwan Shah's cross from the left was knocked down to Nizam by Shahril Ishak. Nizam muscled his way into space, held of the defenders and poked the ball home past the diving Anis to give the Lions the lead.
The second-half was a mirror reflection of the first with Johor taking the game to the Lions. Johor regrouped at half time and came at the Lions with numbers forcing the visitors to defend in numbers.
The best chance for Johor came on 60 minutes when Hyrul produced a top save from an Arturo header that was destined for the top corner.
Lions coach Sundram was soon forced into substitutions and had to reshuffle his pack due to injury, first to Isa Halim and then to Safuwan.
Johor's Arturo and Riduwan were combining well and kept the Lions on the back foot for most of the second-half but they did not carve out many clear cut chances.
The Lions almost snatched a second when Shahdan crossed for Nizam on a quick counter attack and Nizam was inches away from connecting.
Fans unrest marred the end of the game when Lions captain was hurt by an object thrown from the crowd. Shahril went down holding his head and television replays confirmed an object being thrown at him. Shahril was stretchered off and the Lions played on with 10 men for the remaining minutes.
Johor was fimly in control and pressed in vain for an equaliser, but the Lions rearguard held firm and played out till the final whistle ensuring their unbeaten away run continues.
Despite the hard-earned victory Lions coach Sundram will be anxiously waiting for medical reports on his injured stars and will be hoping they recover in time to face Perak on Tuesday.