LionsXII frustrated at home in goal-less affair
The LionsXII were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at home on Saturday night as they returned to Malaysia Super League action against Terengganu FA.
Having lost to Pahang FA in their last home game in the FA Cup a week ago, the LionsXII were clearly in no mood to endure another loss.
Straight from the first whistle, the men in red poured towards their opponents’ goal in droves.
Shahfiq Ghani, making his first start this season, drove a low shot straight into the arms of goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee after three minutes. Khairul Amri then mistimed his jump and headed Safuwan Baharudin’s cross over from close range on 13 minutes, with Isa Halim wasting another chance two minutes later.
The LionsXII captain was left with only Sharbinee to beat after a loose ball fell to him in the box, but the latter flew off his line to make a great block.
It was Gabriel Quak’s turn to be denied by another fine block next. Having beaten two defenders before playing a quick one-two with Shahfiq, the winger surged into the box from the right only to see a last-ditch tackle foil his attempt.
All the Turtles had to show for in the last third was Vincent Bikana heading a corner over the bar early on in the seventh minute, as well as a few long-range strikes that never troubled Izwan Mahbud.
But having weathered the early storm, they began to settle and get into the game after the half hour.
Izwan had to race out of his area to clear the ball as Mamadou Barry beared down on goal with half-time approaching, as the visitors ended the first half looking the more dangerous side.
The hosts started off the second half on the front foot again, forcing two corners within the span of two minutes.
Shahfiq had the crowd on their feet when his terrific curling effort whizzed past the top corner on 49 minutes, after half-time substitute Faris Ramli had earned a free-kick 30 yards out.
Three minutes later, Sharbinee spilled a cross from Faris against Amri and saw the ball bounce off the striker, on to the post and back into his grateful arms.
Mario Karlovic then had a sniff of goal and nearly made the LionsXII pay, his 25-yard piledriver rising just over the bar after Afiq Yunos had cleared the ball straight at the Australian.
Another change on the flanks came just after the hour mark when Nazrul Nazari replaced Quak, as the LionsXII looked for an end product for all their pressure and possession.
An overhead kick from Amri with a quarter of the game left lacked the power and accuracy to trouble Sharbinee, who hardly had a save of note to make in the second period.
Terengganu continued to frustrate the LionsXII with dogged defending and a series of well-timed challenges, but were left thanking their lucky stars in the 86th minute.
Faris cut in from the left and his cross was deflected to Shahfiq, who was in acres of space near the penalty mark. But the forward’s first-time effort flew just wide of the upright, squandering a glorious chance to win it for his team.
There was to be no late drama in store as Terengganu ran the clock down, perfectly content to come away with the draw at the expense of a LionsXII team that eventually lacked the cutting edge to take three points.