The Malaysia Super League champions went down to a 3-1 defeat under rainy conditions in Kuching against the hosts, who were deserved winners
Centre-back Safuwan Baharudin was deployed upfront behind Khairul Amri in a bold move, but that failed to reap dividends as the LionsXII defence could not cope with Sarawak’s slick attacks.
Seemingly eager to bounce back from a 2-0 loss to T-Team last weekend, the hosts pressed hard from the first whistle.
In the absence of import strikers Muamer Salibasic and Milorad Janjus, the duo of Rashid Aya and Joseph Kalang Tie took up the mantle upfront as they made life difficult for the LionsXII defence.
It was Tie who came close to breaking the deadlock when he collected a lovely through ball from Rashid before advancing into the area and chipping Izwan Mahbud from a tight angle, only to see Faritz Hameed rush back in time and head it off the line.
But Suppiah Chanturu was more clinical five minutes later. Junior Eldstal flicked on a long throw from the left by Ronny Harun and the winger had the easy task of heading the ball in at the far post.
The LionsXII were struggling to get a hold on the game and Izwan had to rush out in the nick of time to clear a through ball from Eldstal, with Tie threatening to get on the end of it.
Tie was denied by the woodwork near the half hour when he was set free once again by Rasyid, only to drive a low shot against the near post after doing superbly to flick the ball past Shakir Hamzah.
That miss seemed costly as the visitors equalised against the run of play three minutes later. Sani Kamsani’s punch from a free-kick fell only as far as Nazrul Nazari, who produced a superb first-time header to loop the ball over everyone and into the net.
The score only remained level for four minutes. The lively Rashid sent Chanturu streaking clear down the right, who advanced into the box before placing his shot past Izwan and inside the far post.
Sarawak maintained their stranglehold on the game after the break and Izwan was forced to block Lot Abu Hassan’s fierce drive after yet another incisive ball from Rashid on 56 minutes.
At the back, Sani was hardly troubled in goal as he fielded tame efforts from Hafiz Sujad and Afiq Yunos easily, while Safuwan headed a Madhu Mohana long throw well over.
Rashid got the goal he deserved in the 75th minute when he ran on to substitute Zamri Moshaidi’s deft, no-look pass and blasted the ball across Izwan into the bottom left corner.
Shahfiq Ghani and Khairul Nizam were thrown on as the LionsXII desperately sought a way back, with Safuwan struggling to create much of an impact throughout despite his best efforts.
It was the latter who spurned a gilt-edged chance in the 88th minute. Faris Ramli slipped Safuwan in down the left and the latter reversed the ball across to Nizam, with Sani beaten by the pass. Left with an open goal, the substitute completely missed his kick and allowed the custodian to scramble back to smother the loose ball.
Nizam, who was making his first appearance of the season, then summed up the LionsXII’s night as he headed another good chance wide from six yards as Sarawak ran out deserved victors on the night.