|FROM LARKIN, JOHOR
By Khalis Rifhan
Many would have expected a star-studded Johor Darul Takzim side to walk all over a relatively young LionsXII side as they clashed in the Malaysian Super League on Tuesday night, but the Singapore club defied all odds by securing a 2-2 draw at the Larkin Stadium.
Hariss Harun stunned the home crowd with a goal in the fourth minute, before Italian midfielder Simone Del Nero equalized for the Southern Tigers 11 minutes later.
Baihakki Khaizan then put the LionsXII in front again eight minutes before half-time, before Norshahrul's goal ten minutes from time denied them victory.
As expected, LionsXII coach V.Sundramoorthy was the happier of the two coaches after his side dished out one of their smoothest, free-flowing attacking football this season, building on their impressive 3-0 win over Pahang three days earlier.
“In the first half we started very well, pressing them and putting them under pressure. But the second half was their game. We do have enough quality to push up, but they packed our half and got the equaliser," Sundram said.
“It was a balanced game and a fair result. I would have loved to get all three points, but the boys did great. They are discipline and that is important when we are playing away. The Pahang match was great but this was something special.”
Sundram was pleased with the competitive spirit shown by his charges as they showed strength and character, and noted that the game would provide valuable lessons for them to learn from.
“It is good exposure for my young players and it is certainly a great feeling for them [to get a draw],” he explained.
“They have made their presence [felt] and now the Malaysian teams will take note of us, especially as this is a different team from last season. Today also shows that we can play on grass pitches.”
Sundram also paid tribute to a particular LionsXII player who was doubtful before the game with injury, but turned out to be the best player on the pitch.
“Isa Halim is a fighter and he never gave up. Withouth him, we could have struggled and tonight, he put on a heroic performance for us," he proclaimed.
The LionsXII will next travel to Petaling Jaya stadium in Kelana Jaya, Selangor to face Felda United on March 2. The match will kick off at 445pm.