The hosts paid for their wastefulness and lack of spirit in a disappointing defeat against opponents they had beaten away one week ago, dealing their title chances a big setback
Coach Fandi Ahmad has lamented his team’s lack of strikers and failure to put away chances this season and the same problem surfaced again at the Jalan Besar Stadium, where the LionsXII were hit by a resilient away side.
The result was a second home defeat in six games this season, of which they have only won two, while it also ended a four-match unbeaten streak.
The hosts started well and saw two penalty shouts turned down as they sought the opening goal. Referee Amirul Izwan was unmoved by a shove on Faris Ramli by a defender after just two minutes, while he also similarly dismissed the LionsXII’s appeals after Fairuz Aziz appeared to handle Faritz Hameed’s cross on 22 minutes.
For all their attacking intent, they only tested goalkeeper Redzuan Harun once in the first half, when he had to turn away Firdaus Kasman’s speculative effort near the half-hour mark.
Faris was the liveliest player throughout but his crosses failed to find team-mates, while Shahfiq Ghani and Khairul Armi failed to make much of an impact during their time on the pitch.
The visitors started to get a hold on the game as it crept towards half-time, with Syukur Saidin dragging a shot wide from distance and Fadzli Saari nearly got to the end of a free-kick.
The familiar pattern of the LionsXII not making their possession count and then getting punished was happening again and right on cue, Sime Darby took the lead just before the break.
Mateo Roskam had the rare opportunity to run at the defence and earned a corner after barging through and seeing his shot deflected over. From the set-piece, substitute Fahrul Razi Kamaruddin took everyone by surprise by floating it to an unmarked Syukur near the edge of the box, who sidefooted a fine first-time finish into the bottom corner.
That proved to be the only time the ball would be judged to have crossed the line, despite the LionsXII rallying late on.
Sime Darby would have expected a tougher response after the break but they had their fair share on chances on the break, as they held things tight at the back to frustrate the home side.
Roskam, who put himself about in a lively debut, headed a big chance over at the near post on 49 minutes, as the LionsXII struggled to fashion opportunities against a compact Sime Darby backline.
It was only when centre-back Safuwan Baharudin was pushed up in the final 20 minutes that they started to threaten more. The 22-year-old lashed over a good chance from eight yards on 70 minutes, while his presence caused mayhem at set-pieces.
One such delivery from Zulfahmi Arifin in added time found its way to Sufian Anuar, but his header was hacked off the line by Roskam and ruled not to have gone over it, despite the subsequent fierce protests from the LionsXII players.
A tame delivery by Zulfahmi from a promising position in the final chance of the game was claimed by Redzuan, as Sime Darby came away with a hard fought victory that put a massive dent in the LionsXII’s title hopes.