LionsXII in Cup q-finals if they avoid loss in last group tie

Shahdan Sulaiman (centre), celebrating with Sahil Suhaimi (left) and Faris Ramli. His goal proved enough to see off visitors Johor Darul Takzim II and propel the LionsXII to the top of their group.
Shahdan Sulaiman (centre), celebrating with Sahil Suhaimi (left) and Faris Ramli. His goal proved enough to see off visitors Johor Darul Takzim II and propel the LionsXII to the top of their group.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

MALAYSIA CUP

LionsXII 1

Johor Darul Takzim II 0


With his weaker left foot, Shahdan Sulaiman put the LionsXII in a strong position to qualify for the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

The playmaker's side-footed finish - from an inch-perfect Shakir Hamzah cross - just after the break proved decisive in registering a 1-0 victory over Johor Darul Takzim II last night.

The result moved the Singapore outfit up to top spot in Group A with 10 points from five games - three ahead of Kedah, who lost 1-3 at Terengganu.

JDT II remain third on four points, albeit with a game in hand. The top two teams will go on to the quarter-finals.

The LionsXII can seal their progress by avoiding defeat in their final group match away to Terengganu on Nov 7.

After watching goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud pull off some stunning late saves, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad said his side were "quite lucky" to reach his 10-point target at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

He said: "The last five minutes was a nightmare. Shakir and Izwan were great for us.

"JDT II tried to stop us playing football by pressing high and we took some time to change things."

Fandi's side should have broken the deadlock as early as the ninth minute. Running onto Izwan's booming goal-kick, striker Sahil Suhaimi chipped the ball over rushing goalkeeper K. Sasikumar, only to see his effort bounce just wide of the post.

The visitors, led by effervescent Singapore captain Shahril Ishak, spurned their own gilt-edged chance in the 21st minute.

Forward Akmal Ishak scuffed his effort across goal, failing to capitalise on a rare slip from LionsXII centre-back Madhu Mohana.

The 5,486-strong crowd were treated to a feisty encounter dominated by lunging tackles and questionable refereeing decisions.

Shoves were even exchanged between JDT II defender Baihakki Khaizan and fellow national team-mate Madhu.

JDT II coach Nenad Bacina said: "I asked my team to be arrogant in football terms, and they did it.

"We entertained, pressed hard and deserved at least a point."

Sasikumar pulled off three top-drawer stops to deny Sahil and fellow attacker Faris Ramli, both of whom were victims of some roughhouse treatment.

Without their injured hitmen Khairul Amri and Khairul Nizam, the home team struggled to extend their lead.

Shahdan's strike was enough in the end but they will need to sharpen up to go further in the storied competition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'LionsXII in Cup q-finals if they avoid loss in last group tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe