The Malaysia Super League champions squandered a host of opportunities after taking the lead and their profligacy came back to haunt them as their two-game winning run was halted
Wastefulness. That was the theme of Saturday night for the LionsXII in their Malaysia Super League clash against T-Team FC, which ultimately ended 1-1.
Looking for a third consecutive victory, the defending champions squandered chance after chance at the Jalan Besar Stadium after taking the lead midway through the first half.
They were eventually punished when their opponents capitalised after the break, striking from a set-piece and then holding on for the draw in a night of frustration.
Back at home after a last-gasp away victory over Perak FA on Tuesday, Fandi Ahmad’s men surged forward with intent straight from the start as the effervescent Faris Ramli caused no end of trouble down the right.
The visitors were not helped by an injury to key centre-back Fabio Flor after just 60 seconds, with the Brazilian being stretchered off and replaced by Marzuki Yusof.
Flor had been left in a heap after failing to stop Faris, whose low cross was fumbled by custodian Shahril Sa’ari to Shahfiq Ghani eight yards out. However, the striker, making his first appearance in three games, sidefooted the ball well wide in a foreshadowing of what was to come.
It was important for the LionsXII to make their early domination count and they did just that on 24 minutes.
Moments after Khairul Amri had thudded a header off Shahril Sa’ari’s right-hand post, Safuwan robbed a defender 25 yards out before blasting a shot into the same corner for his second goal in as many games.
The centre-back nearly doubled his tally on 36 minutes when he got his head to Zulfahmi Arifin’s deep cross from the left, only to put it over under pressure from the goalkeeper.
The Titans were hit with yet another set-back as half-time approached when Marzuki had to go off after a clash of heads with Firdaus Kasman, with Chilean playmaker Nelson San Martin brought on.
The LionsXII needed a second goal to calm nerves down and they nearly got it three minutes after the restart.
Faritz Hameed’s cross found Amri at the far post, who skipped past the goalkeeper and laid it back to Faris. The winger’s shot was deflected to the other side, where Firdaus blasted over when he should have done better.
Shahfiq then glanced another excellent ball from Faritz inches past the far post near the hour mark and that proved to be a costly miss.
San Martin gave a warning sign by blasting over from 12 yards after collecting a loose ball, but he was not so generous two minutes later. After substitute Ramzul Zahini had made an immediate impact by drawing a foul, the playmaker stepped up to curl a lovely strike from 20 yards into the top right corner.
The LionsXII had been punished for their failure to score again and the silenced crowd had to be thankful for Izwan Mahbud's smart save off Ramzul's fierce shot minutes later.
Safuwan was pushed into attack alongside Amri as Fandi sought to change things and the decision nearly paid off with a quarter of the game remaining.
Amri’s slide-rule pass sent Faris racing down the left but the latter’s cross was just behind Safuwan, who could only poke the ball agonisingly wide of the near post.
With the game entering its final stretch, the LionsXII continued to squander opportunities. Both Shakir Hamzah and Madhu Mohana headed wide from Zulfahmi’s deliveries, while Syuhiran Ahmad hacked Safuwan’s header off the line.
The red and white tide was relentless but impotent, with Shahril denying Amri in the last chance of the game to ensure T-Team went home with a share of the spoils.
For the LionsXII, they were left to reflect on a night of profligacy that cost them victory.