By Abhishek Mehrotra
Defender Safuwan Bahrudin opened the scoring for the home side with a trademark header in the seventh minute before Agu Casmir grabbed a goal apiece either side of the break to bring some succour to the Singapore outfit.
And while they are still huge underdogs to Kelantan as far as the title race is concerned, this win has provided V. Sundramoorthy's men much-needed encouragement as they seek to finish the season strongly.
LIONSXII midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman had spoken of his side's aerial prowess before the match, and the reason became apparent less than ten minutes in.
Safuwan Baharudin had already sent out a warning in the fifth minute, getting on the end of a Shaiful Esah corner, but it went unheeded by the Sarawak defence, and two minutes later the visitors were made to pay.
Esah's throw-in from deep inside the Sarawak area was allowed to bounce right in front of keeper Saiful Amar before Safuwan nipped in ahead of Guy Bwele to put in a simple header from three yards out. It was poor defending from Sarawak, with both central defenders drawn towards Baihakki at the near post.
Esah's long throws were causing all sorts of problems for the visitors, and Agu Casmir almost doubled his side's lead in the 19th minute from a similar set-up, but this time Saiful chose to come out and clear the danger himself.
Agu was then involved in a lovely one-two with Shahdan before the latter's square found Sufian Anuar. However, a poor first touch saw the ball scoot away before the striker went down theatrically in hopes of a penalty - claims that the referee waved away instantly.
Sarawak was being completely overrun in midfield by Hariss Harun and Isa Halim - they were unable to keep the ball for any significant time and there was absolutely no understanding between their frontmen Khairul Azahar and K Ravindran.
The visitors lost the ball yet again in the 36th minute, and Hariss pounced on it to pick out Agu just outside the area. With his back to goal, the Nigerian put Sufian through with a delicate backheel and even though Sufian's shot was parried by the onrushing Saiful, it fell straight back to Agu who kept his composure to evade the outstretched hands of the prone keeper and rifle his shot in with the aid of a slight deflection off Sahran.
The first serious threat on the home side's goal came five minutes before the break when a quickly taken free-kick released Ravindran on the left, but Irwan Shah did well to race back and cut out the striker's cross for Khairul with both Safuwan and Baihakki stranded upfield.
Watch: Lions XII 3-0 Sarawak.. More Videos
V Sundramoorthy's men could have scored another before half-time when Safuwan got on the end of Shaiful's corner yet again, but with Saiful beaten, Sahran pulled off a goal-line clearance to ensure no further damage was inflicted on his side before the break.
Sundram replaced Sufian with midfielder Safirul Sulaiman at half-time, but it made no difference to the home side's domination. LIONSXII came out intent on attack and could have gone further up on the hour when Shahdan angled pass found Shaiful. The left-back's cross seemed to be headed right for Agu, but Saiful did well to run across the striker and collect ball almost off his forehead.
Agu didn't have to wait too long for his second though. Shahdan seemed to have lost control trying to trap a long ball in the 64th minute, but recovered and picked out the forward's run between the two central defenders, all in one motion. The 28-year-old's initial strike was blocked by Saiful, but the ball came back to him, and this time he made no mistake, sliding in a left-footed shot under the keeper to all but seal three points for LIONSXII.
The night's work done, Agu was subbed immediately to a standing ovation and replacement Khairul Nizam almost got on the scoresheet within seconds of his introduction, but saw his shot from just inside the area well-blocked by Saiful. LIONSXII had the run of the park now against a Sarawak outfit that seemed to have run out of legs, hope and spirit.
Safirul went within inches of scoring what would have been the goal of the game when his curler from the edge of the area beat the Sarawak custodian before cannoning off the bottom off the left post. Sarawak went equally close three minutes from time, when a mishit cross from Ravindran caught Hyrulnizam completely unawares, but bounced off the crossbar.
It would have been a scarcely deserved consolation given that the match had been virtually over as a contest 20 minutes ago, and Hariss, Shahdan and Baihakki all went close in the dying stages as the LIONSXII returned to winning ways after having drawn their last two games.
LIONSXII: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Juma'at Jantan, Sauwan Baharudin, Baihakki Khaizan, Shaiful Esah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hariss Harun, Isa Halim, Irwan Shah, Agu Casmir, Sufian Anuar
Subs: Safirul Sulaiman for Sufian Anuar (46'), Khairul Nizam for Agu Casmir (66'), Sevki Sha'ban for Safuwan Baharudin (78')
Goals: Safuwan Baharudin (7'), Agu Casmir (36', 64')
Yellow Cards: Safuwan Baharudin (53')
Sarawak: Saiful Amar, Ramesh Lai, Sahran Samad, Dzulazlan Ibrahim, Yosri Derma, Guy Bwele, Azizan Saperi, Shahrol Saperi, K Rajan, Khairul Azahar, K Ravindran
Subs: Zamri Marshidi for K Rajan (59'), Ronald Dennis for Khairul Azahar (73')
Yellow Cards: Guy Bwele (77'), Sahran Samad (83')