Sime Darby 1-2 LionsXII: Quak strike helps LionsXII claim first away win
Firdaus Kasman and Gabriel Quak scored after the break to cancel out Fahrul Razi Kamaruddin’s opener as the side rebounded from a poor first-half showing to record their second league win on the trot.
The three hard-earned points would have satisfied head coach Fandi Ahmad, given he came into this game without several players due to injuries and suspensions, plus the national Under-23 training camp.
He was hampered by being forced to field a back-four of natural midfielders, with Izzdin Shafiq needing to drop back to partner Zulfahmi Arifin at the heart of the LionsXII defence.
With Sufian Anuar a late replacement in the starting XI following an injury to Khairul Nizam in the warm-up, the LionsXII played like a group of strangers for much of the first half.
Brazilian-Australian striker Reinaldo Elias da Costa capitalised on the lack of chemistry in the makeshift line-up, causing problems in the final third with his movement and physical.
He came close to breaking the deadlock just five minutes in when he outmuscled Izzdin off the ball, shot straight at Izwan Mahbud and then sent the rebound over from five yards out.
Fahrul presented the former Brisbane Roar forward with another golden opportunity three minutes later, but this time his first-time shot flashed across the face of goal and wide.
The bottom dwellers’ early pressure eventually paid off as Izwan headed the ball outside the box into the path of Fahrul, who gleefully lobbed the LionsXII goalkeeper from distance.
That goal shook the LionsXII out of their slumber and saw them come out after the break transformed as they applied continuous pressure at the other end.
Quak produced his team’s best chance yet after Sufian broke through on the left and squared the ball, only for his team-mate to scoop over from inside the box.
Fandi’s men were to be rewarded for their persistence two minutes later however, when a Raihan Rahman throw-in was flicked on by Sufian into the path of Firdaus, who made no mistake with a spectacular first-time dipping shot from outside the box that sailed into the top left corner.
The LionsXII would go ahead in the 66th minute when Quak’s low shot from the edge of the box bounced in front of the Sime Darby goalkeeper and escaped his despairing grip as it nestled into the bottom left corner of the net.
Strike pairing Khairul Amri and Sufian could have extended the lead in the closing stages of the game but failed to convert from the steady flow of crosses coming in from the right.
There was still time for Shahdan Sulaiman - who returned to the club - to make his first appearance for them since the end of 2012, when he replaced Sufian in injury time.
While the win does not change their league position at eighth, it still provides a welcome boost for the LionsXII ahead of their Malaysia FA Cup semi-final clashes with Terengganu over the next couple of weeks.
Image credit: LionsXII