LionsXII 1 Terengganu FA 1: Second-half fightback rescues point for hosts

The LionsXII played out a third successive draw of their Malaysian Super League campaign after a 1-1 draw against Terengganu FA at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.

In a game which was delayed by an hour and a half due to torrential rain, it was Terengganu centre-back Vincent Bikana who broke the deadlock after nine minutes but Faris Ramli’s goal shortly after the break meant both sides shared the spoils in the end.

Having put up a gritty display the last time out against Felda United, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad made only one change to his starting eleven – bringing in Wahyudi Wahid for the injured Nazrul Nazari at right back, with Zulfahmi Arifin continuing to deputise for Afiq Yunos at centre back.

However it was the visitors who settled into the game the quicker of the two sides, with captain Zairo Anuar forcing Izwan Mahbud to parry his powerful 30-yard half-volley after just two minutes played.

Ismadi Faruqi then lashed over before they eventually broke the deadlock on nine minutes, with Bikana outjumping Khairul Amri to head home Gustavo Lopez’s outswinging corner.

 The LionsXII tried to muster a quick response but Faris’ shot was blocked by Hasmizan Kamarodin, while Gabriel Quak’s goal was disallowed due to Amri’s handball prior to his shot.

Terengganu could have made it two on 23 minutes with Zairo’s brilliant 25-yard effort looking destined for the top corner, but Izwan somehow managed to tip it over the bar.

Fandi then decided to switch things around after the half-hour mark, hauling off the out-of-sorts Wahyudi for Afiq, who took his spot in the heart of defence alongside Zulfahmi Arifin.

The move almost paid instant dividends as Afiq’s header from Faris’ corner was set to sail into the top right corner before Shahrin Sapien’s timely intervention. 

Trailing by the odd goal at half time, Fandi decided to make a bold change by introducing attacker Sahil Suhaimi for captain Isa Halim for the second half – something which worked out perfectly for the LionsXII as they duly levelled matters nine minutes after the restart. 

Breaking in quick numbers after a Madhu clearance, Sahil strode into the attacking third before releasing Faris, who in turn cut inside his marker before firing home a crisp left-footed finish past Terengganu keeper Sharbinee Allawee.

Things could have gotten even better on the hour mark when Amri got on to the end of a superb Firdaus Kasman crossfield pass, but his curling shot came back off the right-hand post.

Up the other end of the pitch, Terengganu had a couple of chances which they failed to capitalise on – with Ismail somehow tapping wide of goal from six yards out, while Madhu was alert to intercept Gustavo’s goalbound shot after Izwan failed to collect the ball.

Buoyed by the home support, the LionsXII pushed forward in the last 15 minutes for the winning goal but was continually frustrated by a combination of good goalkeeping and the woodwork. 

Amri and Sahil’s long-range attempts was parried by Sharbinee, while the latter’s volley from Quak’s corner went agonisingly wide of goal.

There was one last opportunity for the former Courts Young Lions forward to make his mark in injury time when his spectacular 25-yard freekick beat Sharbinee but not the crossbar. 

The game eventually ended in a draw, leaving the LionsXII still looking for their second win since the opening-day victory against PDRM FA.