Though reduced to ten men for the second consecutive match, it wasn’t enough to deny the Singapore team a well-deserved first away win of the campaign
A clinically taken header by Hariss Harun inside twenty minutes from a Shahdan Sulaiman free-kick, proved to be the winning goal in a heated contest, with both teams going all out for a win.
The free-kick in question was a result of a nasty foul on Yasir Hanapi down the right flank, with the winger getting kicked from behind after getting knocked off the ball.
Sabah looked to find a reply almost immediately after going down with K.Thanaraj’s looping free-kick dropping just over the crossbar, before Michael Baird was bravely denied by Isa Halim.
The Australian forward was played into the penalty box by his compatriot Brendan Gan, but his snapshot, though on target, was blocked in time by Isa who had done well to track his opponent.
It was moments after that when both teams found themselves a man down. Chasing a stray ball out of touch, Irwan Shah and Mafry Balan tangled, with the former striking out at the Singapore defender in frustration. Irwan’s retaliation however, was not unnoticed and both men were given their marching orders.
The match threatened to spill-over with players from both sides squaring off in separate incidences, but the LionsXII’s decision to sit back and soak up pressure tempered the match down.
Sabah held control of the match for most parts of the second-half with the Singapore team opting to defend deep and keep men behind the ball, a tactical decision that worked, limiting the home side's chances.
Sumardi Hajalan forced Izwan Mahbud into a fine save near the hour mark then Mohd Fariss Azlan Mat Isa saw his running header from a corner-kick directed tamely at the keeper.
But Gan, the Australian-Malaysian, had the best opportunity with ten minutes of play left. His poorly struck effort, after Baird had done well to work his way down the by-line and pull back for his strike partner, was easily deflected off target by the in-form Baihakki Khaizan.
Shahril Ishak who has struggled for form in previous games, put in a commendable shift, holding up the ball effectively and linking up with Shahdan to cause trouble for the Sabah defence.
LionsXII could have come away with a more comfortable scoreline, but in the dying minutes of the game, substitute Sufian Anuar scuffed his volley after being picked out brilliantly at the far post with a deep cross following a quick counter.
A second win in as many games will now be a huge boost for V.Sundramoorthy's men, who take on Terengganu at home next weekend.