MALAYSIA SUPER LEAGUE
The LionsXII saved their best performance of their Malaysia Super League (MSL) season for a superb victory over the league leaders Pahang yesterday.
Two goals by in-form Faris Ramli and a goal each from stalwarts Madhu Mohana and Safuwan Baharudin gave them a 4-2 victory at Jalan Besar Stadium - and a fitting present for Singapore as it marks 50 years of independence to day.
Not only did the hard-fought victory move the LionsXII up to sixth in the league, but it also dropped Pahang to second spot.
A delighted LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad said: "We have won against the best team of the league, so this is definitely the team's best performance so far, particularly when almost all the players who played are aged below 25 years.
"Both teams have good chances today but we have taken most of our chances. We are aware of their strengths and have managed to stick to our strategies.
"I thought we defended very well against the two strikers who were really strong. Pahang gave us a lot of problems with their long balls towards our goal but I thought our defenders, Shakir Hamzah in particular, managed it very well."
The LionsXII, with seven wins and two draws at home but just one away win, will hope to improve on their form on the road as they travel to Larkin Stadium on Wednesday to take on the new league leaders Johor Darul Takzim, who took over at top spot with a 1-0 win over ATM.
Both teams were quick off the blocks in search of the opening goal, and it was the hosts who drew first blood, as Faris latched on to right-winger Nazrul Nazari's cross before swiftly side-footing it past Pahang goalkeeper Khairul Azhan in the 17th minute.
Twelve minutes later, Pahang - the reigning Malaysia Cup champions - were stunned by a second goal from the LionsXII, courtesy of a superb late run into the box by Madhu, who scored his second goal in two games after heading in midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin's cross from the right.
Pahang reduced the deficit in the 43th minute with Matthias Conti sweeping the ball past Izwan to score his 11th goal of the season.
But Faris restored the two-goal cushion in the 57th minute, when substitute Sahil Suhaimi squared the ball for him to slam home, via a slight deflection off Pahang defender Saiful Nizam.
Safuwan capped a sterling midfield performance with a thumping goal in the 85th minute, before Pahang scored a consolation goal in the dying minutes through substitute R. Surendran.
Said Madhu after the match: "It was a lot of pressure playing against the toughest strikers in the league. But we did a good job in defending.
"Keeping a clean sheet is always the most important and scoring goals is always an extra, which I hope I can help the team with."