The LionsXII put on a resilient performance to hold defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) to a goalless draw, although their winless streak was extended to six games in the league.
JDT could have stolen all three points late on, but LionsXII keeper Izwan Mahbud pulled off a series of excellent saves in his 90th appearance for the club to ensure they took a share of the spoils.
VIEW ALSO Gallery: LionsXII 0 JDT 0
The visitors, who were on the back of a four-game unbeaten streak, started the game in imperious manner, with new signing Patito “Pato” Rodriguez at the heart of at least four opportunities created inside the first 15 minutes.
The Argentine scuffed wide on four minutes after exchanging passes with fellow new recruit Alhaji Kamara, before earning a free kick from which Hariss Harun drew a superb reflex save from former teammate Izwan.
Pato then found Kamara with an outswinging corner on 11 minutes, but the latter’s header was cleared off the line by Firdaus Kasman.
The loan signing from Santos could have opened the scoring on two occasions later, but his close-range efforts was denied by the in-form Izwan.
The LionsXII failed to make the most of the suspended Marcos Antonio’s absence for JDT, only carving out two scoring opportunities in the first half.
Midfielder Raihan Rahman lashed an ambitious volley wide before Madhu Mohana headed over from Faris Ramli’s right-wing cross.
Fandi Ahmad’s men could have gone into the dressing room a goal down after Raihan conceded possession in midfield though, but Hafiz Sujad got back in time to hack off Kamara’s goal-bound shot off the line.
The pendulum swung the other way just after the break however, with Faris curling just wide of the left-hand post from 20 yards out after being set up by Izzdin.
They still had to stay alert at the other end, with Faritz forcing to Kamara lob just wide in front of goal after being set up by Pato.
Sensing the opportunity to take the initiative in the final half-hour, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad threw on Sahil Suhaimi and Gabriel Quak for Firdaus Kasman and Nazrul Nazari to inject more urgency in the attacking third.
The former proved to be a livewire after coming in, curling a free kick just over the bar before seeing his shot from inside the box deflected wide by Junior Eldstal.
That paved the way for the Izwan Show in the last 15 minutes, as he smothered Pato’s speculative 20-yard effort.
The 24-year-old then twice denied Kamara with his legs in one-on-one situations to save his side a point.
Izwan’s JDT counterpart Farizal Marlias was not so lucky though, after being stretchered off for concussion due to an earlier clash with Madhu.
The draw means the LionsXII have taken seven points from seven games and remain ninth in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), seven points behind new leaders Selangor FA.
Fandi’s side will next take on arch-rivals Selangor FA away at Shah Alam Stadium next Saturday.comments