By Abhishek Mehrotra
Shaiful Esah and Juma'at Jantan hit the crossbar while Baihakki Khaizan, Hariss Harun and Sufian Anuar all wasted glorious opportunities, as the visitors somehow escaped with all three points, thanks to a goal from Jasazrin Jamaludin, in one of the most audacious heists of the season.
With a second-place finish already assured for the home side, the game had a distinct end-of-season feel to it,and a near-capacity crowd was in good cheer as their team sought to finish the campaign on a high.
V. Sundramoorthy's men established their superiority early, with Khairul Amri and Baihakki Khaizan both failing to direct their headers goalwards off good deliveries with the game yet to cross the ten minute mark.
Central defender Baihakki has been lethal from set-pieces this season, but he wasted another gilt-edged chance in the 15th minute when he misjudged the flight of Shaiful Esah's corner and got under the ball to loop his header over with the goal gaping.
LIONSXII were stretching Johor superbly across the pitch, with wide men Irwan Shah and Khairul Amri getting plenty of service from their midfield. Khairul carved out two quick chances for himself in the 23rd minute but his shots lacked the power to really test Johor keeper Zamir Selamat.
Irwan then got into the act two minutes later, getting past Shahrizal Saad on the touchline only to see his cross land just behind the unmarked Sufian Anuar. Shahdan Sulaiman was then teed up by a lovely backheel from Sufian but Fernando Augusto did well to deflect the midfielder's goal-bound strike for a corner.
Having survived a barrage from the home side, Johor struck with their first serious attack of the match in the 28th minute.
Syazwan Zainon, whose every touch was booed by the crowd after a couple of early remonstrations with the referee, slipped in Jasazrin on the left and the latter's center was thumped past Hyrulnizam Juma'at by Shahrizal with the aid of a deflection from the lunging Sevki Sha'ban.
Sundramoorthy's men almost replied within 90 seconds, when Hariss won a free-kick in a great position 20 yards from goal, but Shaiful's effort thundered off the crossbar. The left-back then found Sufian and Khairul with two stunning deliveries, but both his unmarked teammates hacked wildly at the ball as more chances went begging.
Sevki's botched clearance at the other end almost compounded his side's woes two minutes before half-time, but the centre-back recovered well to clear for a corner just as Haris Safwan was shaping to shoot.
LIONSXII's dominance was even more clear cut after the interval as they went in search of the elusive equaliser. Hariss could have restored parity within three minutes of the restart, but his glancing header skipped inches wide before Irwan rose highest on the hour mark to meet Shaiful's cross, but planted it right into Zamir's grateful hands.
Highlights: Lions XII 0-1 Johor FC.. More Videos
Syazwan curled a fizzing shot just over from the left in a rare Johor foray forward before the game reverted to type as LIONSXII continued to create, and fritter away, chances.
Hariss sidefooted a corner wide, before Shahdan Sulaiman teed up Juma'at on the edge of the area in the 73rd minute; the right-back was unlucky to see his sweetly struck shot bounce back off the crossbar, but Baihakki, stationed three yards out from goal, should have done better than skew the rebound five feet over.
The Johor box resembled a veritable shooting gallery in the last 15 minutes as strikes rained in from all quarters from the home side desperate to give the 6,636 packed into the stands some parting joy. Try as they might though, the goal just would not come, with Johor defenders putting everything on the line to deny Hariss and his men time and again.
Shahdan and Baihakki both went close before Hariss wasted one last chance in injury-time to gain a point for his side.
The stand-in captain chose to go for goal from just inside the area, despite Baihakki being better positioned on his right, and in a microcosm of the entire match, his shot was two inches wide of the right post to bring a frustrating end to the side's 2012 Malaysia Super League season, even as the visitors celebrated avoiding being dragged into the relegation play-offs.
LIONSXII: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Juma'at Jantan, Baihakki Khaizan, Sevki Sha'ban, Shaiful Esah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hariss Harun, Firdaus Kasman, Irwan Shah, Khairul Amri, Sufian Anuar
Subs: Khairul Nizam for Khairul Amri (46'), Yasir Hanapi for Firdaus Kasman (64')
Yellow Cards: Firdaus Kasman (24'), Baihakki Khaizan (90')
Johor: Zamir Selamat, Ismail Suboh, Izuan Jarudin, Khairul Ismail, Shahrizal Saad, Jasazrin Jamaludin, Fernando Augusto, Syazwan Zainon, Riduwan Maon, Hasni Zaidi, Haris Safwan
Subs: Rahman Zabul for Hasni Zaidi (62'), Azi Shahril for Syazwan Zainon (86'), Khaironnisham Sahabudin for Izuan Jarudin (90')
Goals: Shahrizal Saad (28')
Yellow Cards: Khairul Ismail (30'), Haris Safwan (83'), Syazwan Zainon (85'), Shahrizal Saad (90')