LionsXII 3 Sime Darby 0: Dominant hosts finish season on high

The LionsXII finished their Malaysia Super League season (MSL) unbeaten at home as they thrashed already-relegated Sime Darby 3-0 at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.

Goals from Safuwan Baharudin, Khairul Amri and Hafiz Abu Sujad sealed an emphatic win in front of 5,980 fans, which was easily one of the highest attendances for a home match this season.

With this game effectively being a dead rubber, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad handed a first league start to second-choice custodian Khairulhin Khalid and also gave Firdaus Kasman a rare outing in midfield.

Meanwhile, Christopher Van Huizen was retained in the starting 11 after completing 90 minutes in the midweek defeat to Sarawak FA, a decision which paid off for the home side.

The 22-year-old’s superb inswinging corner on the 12th minute picked out Safuwan, who headed in off the bar at the back post for his fifth league goal of the season.

Sime Darby tried to hit back 11 minutes later via Reinaldo Elias da Costa, but the Brazilian-Australian forward’s freekick was hit straight at Khairulhin.

The pendulum soon swung back the LionsXII’s way as Amri’s 20-yard freekick sailed just wide of the mark.

The 30-year-old was not to be denied for long though as he slammed home from the spot on the stroke of half time, after Shakir Hamzah’s long throw was handled in the area by Saiful Hasnol.

Leading with a comfortable two-goal advantage, the LionsXII came into the second half looking for more but were let down by their own profligacy.

Van Huizen saw his snapshot from outside the box tipped wide by Sime Darby keeper Suffian Abdul Rahman, before Safuwan twice headed off-target.

They could have paid the price on the 69th minute when Sime Darby substitute Rafiq Shah headed in off K. Prabakaran’s wicked cross, but the effort was ruled out by the linesman’s offside flag.

That paved the way for a killer third goal from the home side four minutes later via an emphatic finish by left-back Hafiz.

Receiving a neat slide-rule pass from the on-song Van Huizen, the 24-year-old neatly cut inside his marker before hammering home a right-footed finish into the top right corner past the helpless Suffian.

With the result all but sealed, Al-Qaasimy Rahman was thrown on in the last 10 minutes for his LionsXII debut.

Khairulhin then preserved his clean sheet late on after seeing substitute Eddy Hilmi’s shot crash off the bar.

Eventually it was the LionsXII who saw out the victory to ensure they finish the season in seventh place, one spot higher than last season, with 33 points from 22 matches.

The victory sets them up nicely for the Malaysia Cup, which is set to commence on September 11.