Dollah: LIONSXII were deserving winners

Pahang coach Dollah Salleh believes his side's 3-2 aggregate exit at the hands of LIONSXII in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday was the right result.

Baihakki putting his height to good use.

By Gabriel Tan

Despite heading into the game at the Jalan Besar Stadium 2-1 up from last week's first leg, Tok Gajah fell behind in the 35th minute when Shahril Ishak latched onto a speculative ball by Hariss Harun and planted a header into the back of the net.

Ten minutes from time, the LIONSXII skipper was at it again as he found space inside the area and nodded home an inch-perfect cross from Safirul Sulaiman to send his side through to the semi-finals, something Dollah believes they deserved.

"LIONSXII deserved to win tonight's [Tuesday's] game," he said. "In the first half, we cleared two or three chances and made a mistake and LIONSXII took this opportunity.

"Overall, today [Tuesday] was the worst match we played this season, especially in the second half."

The ex-Malaysia international also admitted that Shahril, who had been struggling for form prior to the game, had proved the difference on the night.

"I always advise my players to watch out for Shahril, even though he is recovering from an injury," Dollah added.

"I still pick him as the dangerman for LIONSXII.

"In terms of experience, we weren't quite there and the LIONSXII really took advantage of the artificial ground [at the Jalan Besar Stadium]. The boys tried hard but just couldn't cope."

LIONSXII coach V. Sundramoorthy was also effusive in his praise of his skipper, but admitted his side were lucky to have survived a bright start from Pahang, where they failed to convert a number of excellent opportunities.

"In the first half, especially in the opening 15 minutes, Pahang had two or three clear chances," he said. "We were quite lucky to escape the scare and slowly we got into the game.

"That was the turning point. Pahang didn't take their chances and we grew more and more into the game and took the lead through Shahril.

"Shahril is a big-match player. Whenever there's a big crowd during a big match, he can deliver and he was the only one who was very composed."

Nonetheless, Sundramoorthy admits he was slightly disappointed with their failure to kill the game off in the second half, and admits they will have to be wary of their semi-final opponents ATM, especially with Isa Halim and Shaiful Esah now ruled out through suspension.

"In the second half, we missed one or two open goals and the players must take responsibility for that," he added. "If we had scored early on after the break, I think they game would have been over and done with.

"The crowd was excellent tonight [Tuesday] and we need them again on Friday against ATM, who have a big budget and many good players.

"Our players are going to have to fill in for Isa and Shaiful, who are both suspended. The boys must know their roles and responsibilities and execute our plan."

In the other semi-final, reigning Super League and FA Cup champions Kelantan take on 32-time champions Selangor.

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