Calamitous defending saw LionsXII crash to their worst Malaysia Super League (MSL) defeat of the season when they conceded four without reply to leaders Selangor FA at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
Afiq Azmi netted a nine-minute hat-trick within the first 15 minutes to put the Red Giants in the driving seat, with Brazilian playmaker Guilherme rounding off the scoring 11 minutes from time.
The rout sees Fandi Ahmad’s men remain marooned in ninth place and just two points off the relegation zone, as they continue to await their first league win since February.
Selangor began the match in frenetic pace as their high pressing game kept the visitors under intense pressure from kick-off.
Winger Andik Vermansyah could have put the home side ahead after only three minutes when Guilherme put him through on goal with a defence-splitting pass, only for the Indonesian’s final shot to be blocked inside the box.
They did not have to wait long to open the floodgates however, as Afiq scored the first of his three goals four minutes later.
LionsXII failed to clear the ball after Guilherme couldn’t connect with a free-kick via an acrobatic finish at the far post, with Afiq capitalising on the space afforded to him to stab home.
He would nab his second in the 12th minute, after a poor pass from Hafiz Abu Sujad left Zulfahmi Arifin under pressure from the 26-year-old striker, whose efforts paid off when he won the ball and stabbed past Izwan Mahbud to double Selangor’s lead.
The MSL leaders and Afiq’s third would come three minutes later courtesy of a low cross from Guilherme, after the Brazilian playmaker dragged three LionsXII players out of position to open up space in the centre.
The inability of Fandi’s side to stamp their mark on the game saw the coach make his first change before the hour, when he replaced Raihan Rahman with Sufian Anuar to rejig his line-up to be more attack-oriented.
The tactical switch saw the Lions lay siege on the Selangor goal for the remainder of the half, although Faris Ramli and Khairul Amri were unable to find a way past Selangor keeper Syamin Othman.
Sufian came close to reducing the deficit five minutes after the break when he stole the ball and curled an effort wide from outside the box.
However, despite likewise dominating much of the second half, LionsXII showed no bite in the final third, as poor decision-making cost them in their attempts to build from the back.
That came back to haunt them 11 minutes from time when Vermansyah pressured Madhu Mohana into losing the ball to the impressive Guilherme, who cut inside the box and slotted past an onrushing Izwan for Selangor’s fourth and the Lions’ heaviest MSL defeat of the season.
Photo credit: LionsXIIcomments