Who was a rare bright spark for Fandi Ahmad's side when they drew against their Johor rivals? Gary Koh dishes out the grades.
Izwan Mahbud 9
No relentless onslaught from Johor could break the spirit and resolve of the acting LionsXII skipper. When Patito Rodriguez’s playmaking efforts and the sheer physical prowess of Alhaji Kamara left his defenders beaten, Izwan’s omnipotent presence between the posts spared their blushes, particularly when he tipped a goal-bound Patito lob from close range over the bar.
Hafiz Abu Sujad 7.5
Two major clearances off the line were the main highlights of a solid defensive outing from the left-back. The solidity of his flank was down to his effective marking of Amri Yahyah, with the Malaysia international’s only notable moment of the game coming when he was hauled off.
Zulfahmi Arifin 6
The steep learning curve looked set to continue for the converted centre-back as he prepared to grapple with the imposing bulk of Kamara. His physical presence provided enough reassurance as he made a number of vital interceptions to prevent further dangers inside his box, however. Zulfahmi’s gutsy defensive showing compensated for his poor taking of set-plays at the other end.
Madhu Mohana 6.5
The most potent attacking outlet in a match where Lions’ chances were at a premium, the defender caused the kinds of problems in the Johor box that Khairul Nizam failed to as the lone forward. His forays upfield saw him head over a cross and cause Johor’s Farizal Marlias concussion, which saw the goalkeeper rushed to hospital after the final whistle.
Faritz Hameed 6
A long first half the overworked right-back will want to forget quickly, as Patito regularly left him for dead with his sublime footwork and pace. He redeemed himself after the break with a stronger defensive display, reducing the impact his Argentine opponent was making down his flank.
Raihan Rahman 6
The midfielder repaid Fandi Ahmad’s faith in handing him his first start of the season with a no-nonsense defensive display. Kept things simple while in possession and often called upon to be part of the multiple man-marking tag teams on Johor dangerous forwards. The occasional drifting from his position and a booking in the second half did not impact his overall grade, but a promising display overall could mean a potentially longer spell on the bench for Isa Halim.
Izzdin Shafiq 7
Coming up against former teammate Hariss Harun and company in the middle of the park, Izzdin emerged as a midfield colossus who showed both inventiveness in his distribution and fearless defending. Putting his big frame in the way as he harried his opponents into mistakes, the midfielder forced Johor to divert their attacking attention to the left where Patito was positioned.
Firdaus Kasman 5
Where his midfield partners shone, Firdaus fell short. Despite pre-match expectations, the 27-year-old rarely got going in the middle. Poor passing and drifting aimlessly without the ball left Izzdin with much to cover for during the 55 minutes Firdaus spent on the pitch.
Faris Ramli 6
What danger Patito created for Johor, Faris tried to reproduce in kind. The talented attacker worked hard to give the Johor defenders something to think about with his clever dribbles. The successful ones he pulled off unlocked openings, making him the most potent attacking threat for LionsXII aside from Madhu.
Nazrul Nazari 5
Having started the season as a makeshift right-back, many thought Nazrul being redeployed to his natural position on the wing would have a positive effect on him and Lions XII. The move proved counterproductive however, as he failed to anticipate his teammates’ movements and barely ever used his speed to get the better of Johor full-back Asraruddin Putra.
Khairul Nizam 5
The powerful forward’s presence in the final third was muted coming up against Fadhli Shas and Junior Eldstal, who comfortably kept him in their pockets. Apart from successfully holding the ball up a couple of times, the only other notable highlight was him nearly going over the side of the pitch’s barrier. Making do with what he had, being forced to rely on scraps for long periods in the game probably didn’t help Khairul’s game.
Sahil Suhaimi 5.5
The diminutive forward showed his capabilities as an impact substitute once again as he made a couple of decent runs at the Johor defence. His decision-making on final balls when coming up against strong opponents continues to leave much to be desired though.
Gabriel Quak 5.5
He could reclaim his place in the starting XI after showing several decent touches and clever movement in a half-hour cameo. Keeping the ball intelligently on the flanks, Quak proved effective and managed to deliver a few crosses into the box.
Sufian Anuar N.A
The striker had barely any time to make an impact on the game as part of a strike pairing with Sahil. Struggled for service as the team remained under the cosh of a Johor siege in the final moments.
All images: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo