|By Kenneth Ho|
LionsXII managed to nick a 1-0 win over ATM FA at the Stadium Tuanku Abdul Rahman in their opening match of the 2013 Malaysia Super League [MSL] on Wednesday evening.
Fielding a relatively new-look squad, the visitors' young squad was put under pressure from the start.
As early as the first minute, Shukor Adan's bullet header towards the top corner was superbly saved by Izwan Mahbud.
LionsXII captain Shahril Ishak then went on a bamboozling run down the right to create time and space for himself, but unfortunately his low shot was parried away by Mohammad Farizal.
ATM continued to push forward, with Marlon James leading the line.
The forward first stung Izwan’s hand with a powerful drive in the 20th minute before the best chance of the first-half fell to him when he timed his run to get behind LionsXII defender Shakir Hamzah. Unfortunately, the 36-year-old thumped his effort into the side-netting.
LionsXII were given a scare right after the restart when ATM’s skipper Hairuddin Omar cushioned the ball with his chest before volleying it against the crossbar.
In the 54th minute, James continued his profligate performance as he failed to connect with a Bruno Martelotto cross from three yards out.
The LionsXII were still unable to muster meaningful attacks and were most dangerous from set-pieces, with a 58th minute corner that lead to Fazrul Nawaz's goal-bound shot being cleared off the line.
The visitors then went head against the run of play in the 66th minute through Shahril. A corner fell to Shakir, who fired the ball in that Farizal could only manage to palm into Shahril’s path, leaving him with an easy finish to put the LionsXII 1-0 up.
It was a nervy last ten minutes for the LionsXII as Izwan then had to make a few crucial saves, including keeping out a flick from Hairuddin in the 82th minute.
LionsXII nearly got a second when ATM poured forward in search of an equaliser deep in injury time, but Irwan Shah could only direct his shot wide after being put through by Shahril.
However, his miss did not matter as the LionsXII held on to their lead and a first victory in the 2013 MSL season.