MALAYSIA SUPER LEAGUE
It had seemed that the LionsXII's proud, unbeaten home record in the league was finally coming to an unfortunate end against old rivals Selangor last night.
But with one acrobatic scissors kick, Khairul Nizam rescued his side with one of the best goals seen at the Jalan Besar Stadium this Malaysia Super League (MSL) season.
The substitute's 88th-minute wonder strike and third league goal of the season ensured that the LionsXII's unbeaten home record remained intact for at least another week, as they came from behind to draw 1-1 with Selangor.
The goal also meant that Nizam - last netting in a 2-1 victory over Terengganu in the first leg of the Malaysia FA Cup semi-final in May - ended his 11-match goal drought.
"This is the best goal I have scored in my career," he said.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
"I wanted to initially head the ball but the way it came towards me, I thought I should do something better and I went for it. I have tried lots of spectacular strikes like this in training and it finally came off."
KHAIRUL NIZAM, on his long-awaited acrobatic strike
"I wanted to initially head the ball but the way it came towards me, I thought I should do something better and I went for it.
"I have tried lots of spectacular strikes like this in training and it finally came off."
Often left on the bench, and forced to play second fiddle to half-brother Khairul Amri, Nizam was handed a starting berth while Amri nursed a calf injury in the last two matches.
Try as he did, he did not end his goal drought. And with Amri having recovered from his injury yesterday, the younger Nizam returned to the bench.
While that 11-match goal-less spell would have robbed most forwards of their confidence, Nizam showed that he can still hit the heights with the crucial late goal.
Faritz Hameed swung in a cross from the right flank, and Nizam rose highest, twisted his body and connected with a powerful scissors kick to leave Selangor's goalkeeper Norazlan Razali stunned in goal.
The goal left the Red Giants stunned and, for the first time in a dull encounter, the 5,814-strong crowd rose to their feet and erupted with joy as Nizam wheeled away in delight.
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad - who has scored numerous brilliant goals in his storied playing career - was suitably amazed by the strike.
"What a spectacular goal that was," said the beaming 53-year-old. "It was a show man's goal and a fantastic effort.
"Selangor came here with a mission and got it right tactically. What a relief for us."
Earlier, in the 59th minute, Selangor took the lead when Bunyamin Umar found time and space on the right flank and whipped in a pin-point cross for Afiq Azmi to emphatically head past the LionsXII's Izwan Mahbud.
Having netted a hat-trick in Selangor's 4-0 win over the LionsXII at Shah Alam earlier in the season, Azmi had returned to haunt Fandi Ahmad's charges.
But ultimately it was Nizam who was to have the last laugh.
The team end the season on Saturday at home to Sime Darby after playing Sarawak on Wednesday.