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  • April 15, 2014
  • • 19:45
  • • Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
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Super-sub Sufian bags treble in LionsXII romp over Pahang

Super-sub Sufian bags treble in LionsXII romp over Pahang

FAS

The forward came off the bench in the second half to notch an incredible hat-trick as the hosts bounced back from their last home defeat in style against the league leaders

Things could have been so different for Sufian Anuar on Tuesday night. Literally seconds after coming on for the LionsXII, he smashed a good cut-back over the bar with the score at 1-1.

That miss could have demoralised the striker, but he responded with a superb hat-trick as the Malaysia Super League champions came away with an incredible 4-1 win over leaders Pahang FA.

In a way, Sufian’s tenacity embodied the spirit of his side, who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Sime Darby just three days ago at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The visitors came into the clash on the back of five straight league wins and it seemed like they were on course to make it six after eight minutes. Centre-back Afiq Yunos, back in the starting line-up after missing the last two matches, failed to track counterpart Damion Stewart, who diverted Azhar Sairudin’s free-kick past a helpless Izwan Mahbud.

The LionsXII custodian then pulled off a superb save to tip Dickson Nwakaeme’s blistering low drive behind on 21 minutes, with Zeshran Rehman’s goal-bound header from the resultant corner blocked by Safuwan Baharudin. The latter would soon go on to make a vital intervention at the other end.

Fandi Ahmad had sprung a change of tactics before kick-off when he pushed right-back Faritz Hameed forward to the flank, while half-brothers Khairul Amri and Khairul Nizam were paired up top.

But it was a second reshuffle, this one enforced, that paid dividends. Raihan Rahman’s injury near the half hour saw him replaced by Aqhari Abdullah, who was joined in central midfield by Safuwan as Faritz dropped back to defence.

The changes seemed to galvanise the LionsXII, with Madhu Mohana heading Faris Ramli’s free-kick over from four yards. The latter then forced a corner after his shot was deflected and from there, the hosts levelled.

Hafiz Sujad’s corner was weakly punched out to an unmarked Safuwan, who showed impeccable technique to volley the ball into the bottom corner from 12 yards, despite Azamuddin Akil's despairing lunge on the line.

From there on, the momentum stayed largely with the LionsXII, as Hafiz and Amri went close to giving them a half-time lead. Five minutes into the second period, Faritz fired into the side netting, before another change in personnel turned the game on its head.

Sufian came on for Nizam, who limped off with a knee injury near the hour mark. While he wasted his first chance, the former Warriors FC forward redeemed himself at the second bite of the cherry on 79 minutes.

Faritz's cross was deflected to the edge of the box, where Amri took a shot that came off Azidan. The ball fell to Sufian in the six yard area, who stuck out a foot to push it past a hapless Khairul Azhan as the crowd erupted in delight.

Izwan had to turn another superb effort from Nwakaeme past the post as Pahang sought to hit back immediately, with Azidan’s low drive from range skidding wide four minutes from time.

The visitors appealed furiously right on 90 minutes when Stewart’s shot appeared to strike Afiq’s arms, but the referee as unmoved as five minutes of added time was signalled.

As the Elephants pushed hard for an equaliser, the LionsXII hit them through two swift counter-attacks to wrap up victory.

First, Sufian knocked home the rebound in the 93rd minute after his own shot had been saved. Then, the 26-year-old was in the right place at the right time again after Amri’s shot came off the post, blasting home with the last kick of the game to cap a memorable night for himself and his team.

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