LionsXII home in on win

LionsXII players saluting fans after Khairul Amri converted for the side's second goal in the 3-0 MSL victory against Sime Darby at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
LionsXII players saluting fans after Khairul Amri converted for the side's second goal in the 3-0 MSL victory against Sime Darby at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

3-0 victory against Sime Darby gives Fandi a reference point for strategy in Malaysia Cup

MALAYSIA SUPER LEAGUE

LionsXII 3
Sime Darby 0

On the artificial turf of the Jalan Besar Stadium, everything has flowed delightfully for the LionsXII. Backed by the fervent support, they have made their home ground an impregnable fortress this season.

That fortress was stout again last night in front of a crowd of 5,980 supporters, as Fandi Ahmad's charges closed out the Malaysia Super League (MSL) season in style with a 3-0 victory over relegated Sime Darby FC.

The win ensured that they finished the campaign in seventh spot with 33 points from 22 matches.

They are unbeaten at home, but as entertaining and energetic as they have been at Jalan Besar, the Singapore outfit have been tepid and tedious away, winning only once on their travels all season.

In fact, Sime Darby are the only team that the LionsXII have beaten both home and away this season.

It is something Fandi hopes can improve when the LionsXII begin their Malaysia Cup campaign when the competition starts on Sept 11.

He said: "Don't forget that these players are still young and relatively inexperienced, and it showed in our performances away from home.

"We should have been fighting for third or fourth place, but that's football - if you don't win away, it's going to cost you.

"Generally, the players have improved and there are a lot of positive signs in the players. As a coach I am a little disappointed, as we should be higher up in the table."

At least the LionsXII's performances at home put a smile on the head coach's face.

Of the 11 matches they have played at home, they have emerged victorious in eight, while settling for draws in three matches. In the process, they have netted 25 goals while conceding only 10.

Last night, a goal each from Safuwan Baharudin, Khairul Amri and Hafiz Abu Sujad sealed the comfortable win.

It also gave an indication of how their season has gone up front, with no LionsXII player able to hit double digits for goals in the league.

Safuwan, deployed in an attacking midfield position, opened the scoring when he headed in Christopher van Huizen's pin-point delivery from a corner in the 12th minute.

It was his fifth goal of the season since returning from his Australian sojourn with Melbourne City.

The LionsXII then doubled their advantage just before half-time when Sime Darby defender Saiful Hasnu was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.

Amri stepped up to take his season's tally to nine goals in all competitions.

Hafiz then latched onto van Huizen's pass before curling a superb right-footed strike into the top corner in the 73rd minute.

With less than three weeks in which to gear up for the Malaysia Cup, Fandi will be looking to sort out their away woes, as the LionsXII hope to add another piece of silverware to the cabinet this year after their Malaysia FA Cup win.

"The Malaysia Cup will be a different matter and I hope the draw will favour us," Fandi said. "We look forward to the Malaysia Cup. We have to be better away from home and should have more confidence."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'LIONSXII HOME IN ON WIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe