By Abhishek Mehrotra
The home side filled their boots against a tattered PKNS backline, with defenders Safuwan Baharudin Sevki Sha'ban and Shaiful Esah getting on the scoresheet, before striker Agu Casmir grabbed a second-half brace to round off a delirious Tuesday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The match got off to a frenetic start with both sides intent on attack in the opening stages. After a fifth minute LIONSXII corner had been cleared, PKNS went close twice in quick succession. First Nicoise Dawood's scuffed shot looped its way to Hyrulnizam Juma'at who seemed to have temporarily gone to sleep. Nor Hakim nipped in with a header, but could not direct it on target.
Khairu Azrin then sent Nicoise through with a brilliant slide rule pass and the striker, who had scored the winner in the reverse fixture, tested Hyrul with a drilled shot that the keeper had to dive low to his right to keep out. Shaiful and Irwan Shah then combined well for the home side before the left-back sent his cross spiralling behind the PKNS goal.
Shaiful had been lively thus far, but without finding the right ball, as yet another ambitious shot landed right into the Remezy Che Ros' hands. That would change soon as the LIONSXII tore into the visitors. Agu Casmir did well to win a free-kick on the left and Shaiful's delivery found its way to Safuwan Baharudin who escaped the attentions of Helmi Loussaief at the far post for a simple tap-in.
If the PKNS defending was poor then, it was absolutely shambolic three minutes later. From yet another deadball delivery from the left, the visitors' defence failed to attack the ball as it screamed its way through a sea of defenders, past the stranded Che Ros and into the back of the net. Having been on an even keel in the opening stages, PKNS had gone down two goals within three minutes. And it was to get worse.
Agu, playing manfully as the lone striker won yet another corner, and Shahdan Sulaiman's inswinging delivery found the shell-shocked PKNS defence rooted to the spot, allowing Sevki Sha'ban to power in a bullet header five yards out. Three goals to the good, and three points looked to be in the bag for the home side as early as the 26th minute.
Nicoise was the only PKNS player carrying any kind of threat, and he almost reduced the deficit on the half hour mark when Hyrul came up with a brilliant reflex save diving low to his right to stop a goalbound header off a corner.
The PKNS striker threatened twice more before the break - first when it took both Safuwan and Sevki to dispossess him just inside the area and then when his ferocious free-kick from well over 30 yards out had to be punched away smartly by Hyrul. Just as he looked to be really getting into the mood to inflict some real damage on the home side though, the referee blew his whistle for half-time, no doubt leaving V Sundramoorthy a delighted man.
The Malaysia Super League leaders would have been forgiven for emerging from the tunnel with a far more defensive approach, but that was far from the case. First Shahril almost got his head on to a Shahdan delivery before an off-balance Irwan couldn't tap in Agu's cross at the far corner with the goal gaping. For their part, PKNS were relying solely on their ace marksman to launch them forward, but with Safuwan and makeshift centre-back Hariss Harun standing firm, Nicoise was reduced to shooting from distance in vain.
While the French born striker was struggling to make headway, his counterparts were shredding the PKNS backline at will at the other end. Isa Halim's lobbed ball over the defence found Shahdan free on the right and from the midfielder's first-time cross the unmarked Agu made no mistake - smashing his shot in past the hapless Che Gos.
PKNS were chasing the game, but it was the LIONSXII who were mercilessly hunting down their prey. First Shahril went just wide from an acute angle after Agu had played him in on the right, before Shahdan's attempt to find the captain with a square ball went horribly wrong.
Safuwan then rose high to head the ball into Shahdan's path, but yet again the 23-year-old failed to make a clean connection. The home side were knocking on the door frequently, and the wrecking fall that finally blasted it open was one that had already worked thrice in the match - a set-piece.
Shahdan swung his corner in, Safuwan's header was saved brilliantly by Che Ros, but unfortunately for the keeper, it bounced off his hand, onto Agu's head less than a yard from goal before crossing the line.
It was the striker's second and on the basis of his performance, no less than he deserved. Both sides had further chances, with Agu guilty of blazing his shot into the side netting when presented with a golden chance to grab his hat-trick and Asyidi Dil Ashar's shot on the turn skimming Hyrulnizam's crossbar.
By then though, only the statisticians would have been interested as the crowd was already in partying mode while PKNS were wondering how they could have been beaten so comprehensively by a side they had downed a mere four days ago.
LIONSXII: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Juma'at Jantan, Safuwan Baharudin, Sevki Sha'Ban, Shaiful Esah, Hariss Harun, Isa Halim, Shahdan Sulaiman, Irwan Shah, Shahril Ishak (c), Agu Casmir
Subs: Firdaus Kasman for Sevki Sha'Ban (38'), Taufik Rahmat for Irwan Shah (79'), Yasir Hanapi for Juma'at Jantan (85')
Goals: Safuwan Baharudin (16'), Shaiful Esah (19'), Sevki Sha'Ban (26'), Agu Casmir (53', 87')
Yellow Cards: Safuwan Baharudin (45')
Selangor PKNS: Remezy Che Gos, Helmi Remeli, Fadhil Hashim (c), Zulharis Nor, Ahmad Azlan, Azrif Nazrulhaq, Helmi Loussaief, Nor Hakim, Khairu Azrin, Fauzan Dzulkifli, Nicoise Mickael Dawood
Subs: Rajesh Perumal for Ahmad Azlan (29'), Aysidi Dil Ashar for Nor Hakim (74'), Norhafizzuan Jailani for Fauzan Dzulkifli (87')
Yellow Cards: Ahmad Azlan (18'), Helmi Loussaief (69'), Zulharis Nor (87')
Referee: Amirul Yaacob