LionsXII claw back to earn draw
Fandi Ahmad looked to be facing a miserable return to his old side against Johor Darul Takzim on Tuesday night in the Malaysian Super League until a tactical error on the home side's part led to the LionsXII earning an unlikely draw.
The Singapore side found themselves 2-0 down at the half-time break after finding themselves struggling to cope with the creativity of Johor's foreign imports of Pablo Aimar and Luciano Figueroa.
The Argentine internationals stunned the visitors with a quick well-worked goal in the 28th minute to gift the home side the lead.
Aimar turned away from the LionsXII defensive midfielders to cleverly tap a ball through to Figueroa who had also impressively peeled himself from the backline. The former Argentine international found himself racing through into the penalty box and had the relatively easy chance of sliding the ball past the onrushing Izwan Mahbud who could not have done better.
It took just 10 minutes however for the provider to find himself on the scoresheet. Aimar had the fans cheering for him again after pre-match talks of a possible exit, with a sublime free-kick that cleared the wall and found the bottom corner of the LionsXII goal.
Again, the LionsXII looked suspect having allowed Amri Yahya to break away after sloppy passing gifted the Malaysian international. Afiq Yunos' rather cynical nudge from behind earned himself a booking and resulted in the free-kick that led to Aimar's goal.
The game looked to be heading to full-time with the score stuck at 2-0 but a flurry of substitutions changed the game drastically, for the home side, however, it was for the worst.
Fandi introduced Madhu Mohana in the centre of defence at the break to replace Isa Halim who looked to be in danger of collecting a second booking. Safuwan then made his way to midfield.
Just past the hour mark, Cesar Jimenze decided to take off the very influential Aimar and the LionsXII proved his decision wrong by pulling a goal back almost immediately.
Madhu's long throw into the penalty box was pounced on by the sprightly Khairul Amri who lobbed a header over the goalkeeper to reduce the deficit.
Just minutes later, the travelling LionsXII fans went delirious. A quick exchange of passes found Safuwan dead-centre in the middle of the penalty box and his effort was pushed away by the Johor custodian, but only into the path of Hafiz Sujad who had the easiest task of poking into goal from close range.
Both sides played for a winning goal as the game drew to a close but neither was able to get the decisive fifth goal. Safuwan was denied as he was through on goal while Faris Ramli found himself being turned away for a penalty shout. A late introduction of Hariss Harun for the home side also failed to materialise into a winner.
LionsXII now head into the FA Cup again as they take on Pahang FA on Saturday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium in a rematch of the Community Shield match from earlier this month.