Football: LionsXII go down 1-0 in MSL opener to Pahang

Mohd Khairul Amri and Damien Delano Stewart vie for the ball during the Charity Shield match between LionsXII and Pahang FA held at Darul Makmur Stadium, Pahang, on Jan 17, 2014. -- BH PHOTO: ZAINAL YAHYA
Mohd Khairul Amri and Damien Delano Stewart vie for the ball during the Charity Shield match between LionsXII and Pahang FA held at Darul Makmur Stadium, Pahang, on Jan 17, 2014. -- BH PHOTO: ZAINAL YAHYA

There was no triumphant return for Fandi Ahmad as he started his LionsXII reign with a 1-0 defeat at Pahang in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) opener on Friday.

The match in Kuantan's Darul Makmur Stadium was also the season's Charity Shield.

After seven years coaching abroad, ex-national captain Fandi finally came home and he signalled his intention to woo the crowds with an attack-minded 4-3-3 system.

But against the Malaysia Cup holders, who were boosted by a capacity 40,000 crowd, the LionsXII had trouble controlling the midfield and Fandi eventually had to switch to a more conventional 4-4-2 to beef up his engine room.

Khairul Amri had the best chance for the visitors when he blasted straight at goalkeeper Khairul Azhan in the 30th minute after fellow striker Sufian Anuar delivered a good cross from the left.

At the other end, Argentinian striker Matias Conti saw his header brilliantly saved by the outstretched legs of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud in the 54th minute.

But Conti was not to be denied three minutes later when he tapped home. As left-back Shakir Hamzah attempted to dribble his way out of trouble, he slipped and was dispossessed by midfielder Abdul Malik, whose shot was parried by Izwan.

However, Conti swooped in for the rebound to steer his effort past retreating right-back Faritz Hameed.

In a surprising twist, Fandi substituted his captain Isa Halim with attacking midfielder Aqhari Abdullah with 10 minutes to go. But the gamble did not pay off.

The LionsXII's next MSL game is against Selangor on Jan 25 at Bishan Stadium.

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