Report: Sime Darby FC 0-2 LionsXII
The LionsXII finally found a panacea to their goal-scoring woes as a Safuwan Baharudin header and a Khairul Amri strike gave them a 2-0 victory over Sime Darby FC at the Selayang Stadium on Saturday evening.
The reigning Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions gave a perfect response to coach Fandi Ahmad a week after he lambasted his team’s lack of efficiency in front of goal, when they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to T-Team FC.
Safuwan led by example as his header early in the second half, his third in as many games, put the LionsXII ahead before Amri's goal 10 minutes later ended his four-game goal drought.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Singaporeans though as Sime Darby did pose problems. The MSL debutants had won three out of their last five home games and they started the ball rolling in the first minute as Mahmoud Amna latched on to a through ball and burst past Shakir Hamzah down the right, only to shoot straight at Izwan Mahbud.
Amri then had his first opportunity of the game just inside 10 minutes after he turned neatly on the right inside the box, but his shot curled inches wide of the far post.
There were chances on both ends in quick succession a few minutes later, as Fadzli Saari’s headed flick from a free-kick produced a top-drawer reflex save from Izwan. Seconds later, Amri got the ball on the right in a quick counter-attacking move, but his cross to Faris Ramli was poked wide by the latter.
Fazrul Hazli then thought he had given the home side the lead on 25 minutes, his scorching free-kick from 20 yards out grazing the post with Izwan rooted to his spot.
Nazrul Nazari came close for the visitors five minutes before the break when he cut in from the right after Amri’s layoff, but his sliced left-footed effort was scurriedly saved by Suffian Rahmad.
Sime Darby then had the best opportunity of the half but Izwan made a superb block from Amna’s shot after he was left on his own in the six yard box. The Syrian then laid the ball to Azmirul Azmi from the rebound, but the shot was cleared off the line by Madhu Mohana.
The breakthrough finally came seven minutes after the break via a Shahfiq Ghani set piece. The 23-year-old, who scored in the recent 2-1 defeat against Indonesia Under-23s, sent a beautiful delivery from the left and Safuwan leapt highest to head the ball into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes later, it was 2-0 as Amri ran on to Shahfiq's chipped pass and took advantage of William Mensah's hesitation by getting to the ball first, before sliding a cool finish past a wrong-footed Suffian.
There were still nervy moments for the visitors though, who had Izwan to thank yet again on 70 minutes after he made a vital block from Mensah’s header.
Amri had a couple of other chances to build on his goal tally, but the misses didn’t prove crucial as the LionsXII saw out the game to notch a third win in four matches.