LionsXII 3 Kelantan FA 0: Hosts maul gun-shy Red Warriors
Having led through a fourth-minute Faris Ramli goal, the LionsXII had to be patient to break down the visitors who were missing key players Jonathan McKain and Badhri Radzi.
The Malaysia FA Cup champions eventually sealed an emphatic victory late on via Khairul Amri’s first goal in nine league games and Faris’ second goal of the game.
The win was their first in three league games, after a 1-1 draw against ATM FA and a 2-1 loss to PDRM FA last week.
Faris Ramli struck early once again for LionsXII, just like he had done in that epic FA Cup final win.
Safuwan Baharudin’s fierce drive from outside the box was parried by Kelantan keeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat into the path of Faris, who had the easy task of tapping home from eight yards out.
Provider Safuwan nearly turned scorer two minutes later when his 25-yard freekick sailed just wide of the mark.
Kelantan then had an opportunity to equalize when Erwin Carrillo broke free of the LionsXII defence, but the Columbian forward was superbly closed down by the onrushing Izwan Mahbud.
Without their inspirational leader Badhri, the visiting Red Warriors struggled to control the tempo in midfield and allowed the LionsXII to carve out another couple of good opportunities thereafter.
Khairul Fahmi had to stretch to parry Izzdin Shafiq’s 25-yard grasscutter and then Gabriel Quak’s snapshot from inside the box.
On the other hand, Kelantan were forced into a number of ambitious long-range attempts, as Nigerian hot shot Austin Amutu forced Izwan to make a good save.
The LionsXII carried the one-goal advantage into the break and could have doubled it just after the restart, but Faris’ curling shot was too weak to trouble Khairul Fahmi.
Kelantan gradually settled and gave the LionsXII a couple of scares thereafter.
First, the LionsXII defence allowed Amutu to go one-on-one with Izwan, but Nazrul managed to head the resulting danger away from the lurking Wan Zack Haikal after the goalkeeper had been beaten.
Then Amutu broke free via a throw in from the right touchline, but only managed toe-poke his effort wide.
Sensing the opportunity to grab an equaliser, Kelantan coach Azraai Khor threw on Brazilian forward Gilmar to form a three-pronged attack with Carrillo and Amutu in the final 20 minutes.
The move nearly worked a treat in the 78th minute when Gilmar broke free in front of goal after Amutu’s shot was parried into his path, but his goalbound shot was brilliant deflected wide by the alert Shakir Hamzah.
That paved the way for the LionsXII to seal the victory with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
Amri raced past marker Fitri Omar inside the box, before lashing a sizzling shot into the bottom left corner.
Then Faris played a superb one-two with Shahdan just outside the box, before drilling a neat effort into the bottom right corner.
The result means the LionsXII are still unbeaten at home in six league matches in this season, something which should give them some confidence going into Wednesday’s home clash against Perak FA.
Photo: Weixiang Lim