In an otherwise drab affair, T-Team were fortunate to beat a severely depleted LionsXII side, who were missing key players to national service and suspension.
It turned out to be quite a scrappy game as a depleted LionsXII side took on resoute T-Team. Suspensions and National service commitments severely limited Sundram’s playing options, as he brought a bare-boned 14-man squad to Kulua Terengganu.
T-Team took an early lead in the 5th minute after some uncharacteristically terrible defending from Lions captain Baihakki Khaizan. He contrived to miss a hopeful lob from T-Team striker Fadzli. Azrul Hazran collected the loose ball and punished Izwan Mahbud at the near post.
LionsXII attempted to push forward a little more, playing some decent keep-ball between the midfield and the attack.
T-Team was aggressive in defending the long ball from the LionsXII, resulting in several freekicks from 40 yards out.
The slew of freekicks allowed Shaiful Esah to fashion several half chances but the chances all went begging.
LionsXII was gifted a lifeline as the T-Team defense contrived to send the ball into the back of their own net.
Sufian Anuar chased a long ball all the way to the byline and chipped it hopefully into the box. A communication breakdown in the defence led Norfazli to smack the ball straight into compatriot Bojan Petric, the ball rebounding beyond the goalkeeper.
In the 45th minute, Irwan Shah missed a gilt-edged chance to put LionsXII in front. Shahdan played a beautiful lob over the T-Team back four, which found the running Irwan. One-on-one with the keeper, he put too much into his shot, knocking it over the on-rushing Syamsuri and the bar.
With second place all but theirs, it was easy to see why the LionsXII were happy with the draw and cautious going forward. T-Team, on the other hand, had much more to play for as they chased the safety of 7th place.
Hyrulnizam replaced Izwan Mahbud at the break for the LionsXII was called into action almost immediately. Faiz’ opportunistic header in the 50th minuted, forced a diving save from the current Lions’ No. 1.
Drama ensued in the 70th minute as the referee pointed to the spot as Faiz Subri went down in the Lions penalty area, sandwiched between Firdaus and Sevki.
T-Team’s Rosni’s penalty was saved by Hyrulnizam. But, the linesman waved his flag to indicate the LionsXII keeper was too far off his line. There was no mistake this time, as Rosni dinked the ball into the net, leaving the Lions to protest the decision furiously.
The remaining 20 minutes was a scrappy affair as both teams exchanged possession whenever an attack was built. Despite sending striker, Taufiq Rahman, the LionsXII were unable to break down a determined T-Team led by their dominant goalkeeper, Syamsuri.
In the dying minutes, T-Team continued to defy the script with yet more drama. Faiz Subri attempted an opportunistic fall in the box again, but this time the referee was having none of it. He gave a second yellow to the striker for simulation. T-Team were left to defend their lead with only 10 men.
Credit to T-Team, they needed the 3 points and played like they wanted it more. The win puts them further out of reach from rivals Sarawak and PKNS. The LionsXII under the hand, will look to regroup at home for their final MSL game, hopefully to end the campaign on a high.