LionsXII 2 Johor Darul Ta'zim II 0: Baihakki off as hosts gain first leg advantage
Head coach Fandi Ahmad was desperate for a win after seeing his side surrendering meekly against Pahang on the weekend, and got the perfect start when Khairul Amri netted early to put the hosts ahead.
Johor Darul Ta'zim fielded Singapore internationals Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak in their starting lineup, while Faritz Hameed and Khairul Nizam started their second game in succession for the LionsXII.
The home team started brightly and took the lead against the run of play after only three minutes.
Amri made the most of a defensive mix up in the Johor box to swivel and shoot into the net to the delight of the home support, who had been mostly drowned out by enthusiastic singing from the travelling away fans.
Winger Gabriel Quak then breezed into the penalty box and was tripped, but his slightly exaggerated fall upon contact did not impress the referee.
The visitors pressed for an equaliser, but it was the LionsXII who continued to dominate the early proceedings.
Faris Ramli stole the ball in midfield in the 17th minute and dribbled his way past four opposing players, but his resulting cross could not find a teammate in the box.
JDT II finally got their first decent chance of the game in the 24th minute when a fierce header was hacked off the line by an alert Faritz after goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud had been beaten.
The resulting corner saw Izuan Jarudin in acres of space, but the JDT II defender could only head narrowly past the post.
Zaquan Adha was the next to have a go, but his goal-bound shot from the edge of the box was palmed over with an equally impressive save by Izwan.
There were a few worried faces in the crowd as Amri had to be stretchered off with a tight groin minutes before the half, with Sahil Suhaimi entering the fray.
Baihakki had time to pick up his first yellow card of the night for an innocuous challenge on Sahil, as the LionsXII headed for the dressing rooms with a narrow one-goal advantage.
JDT II started the second half positively and it took some good goaltending from Izwan to hold them at bay.
The pick of the saves came when Leandro Velazquez's curling free kick was tipped over for a corner after it had eluded the entire defence.
Raihan Rahman finally made a long-awaited return from injury at this point, coming on for Firdaus Kasman in the 54th minute.
The hosts then almost doubled their advantage, but Faris' rasping drive struck the crossbar with Anis well beaten.
Shahril Ishak then wasted the visitors' best chance of the night after failing to connect with a cross while unmarked in the box, as van Huizen was introduced for Faris.
JDT II's task was made even harder as Baihakki received his marching orders for a second yellow card after bowling Raihan over.
van Huizen then capitalised on the extra man advantage in injury time, cutting in and curling an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner for an important maiden goal for the LionsXII.
Despite Fandi later admitting that he wasn't entirely pleased with the performance and that he'd expected more goals, it was a valuable first leg advantage that the LionsXII will be taking to Johor on April 22.