Plucky Kedah deny LIONSXII opening cup win

Alen Guc scored with a penalty in the second minute of injury-time to hand Kedah a deserving 2-2 draw at LIONSXII in their opening Malaysia Cup Group D encounter.

LIONSXII vs Kedah: Baddrol Bakhtiar, Isa Halim
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

Shahril Ishak handed the hosts a dream start in the 11th minute when he netted with a close-range header, but their lead was cancelled out seven minutes before the half-hour mark when Guc equalised in rather fortuitous fashion.

The LIONSXII did reclaim the lead in the 65th minute when Shahfiq Ghani curled home a trademark freekick but in the 92nd minute, Hijau-Kuning were awarded a spot-kick after Syafiq Ahmad was fouled, allowing Guc to fire home from 12 yards and earn them a share of the spoils.

The result was no less than Kedah deserved given the way they matched the reigning Super League champions for much of the match, but the Singaporean side would certainly be disappointed with the way they twice let their winning position slip.

While they started the brighter of the two sides and deserved to take the lead after 11 minutes, they had opposition centre-back Fariss Azlan to thank for the breakthrough after he tried to dribble the ball out of defence and was tackled by Fazrul Nawaz, who chipped a perfect cross to leave Shahril with a simple header at the back post.

Five minutes later, Fazrul nearly got a goal of his own when he latched onto Faritz Hameed's cross and did well to fire away a volley on the turn, only to send it just over.

But despite going behind, the visitors remained undeterred and showed plenty of initiative all across the park, and duly equalised in the 23rd minute.

Breaking free down the right, Khyril Muhymeen slid an inch-perfect cross to pick out Guc inside the area and although his initial effort drew a fine save from Izwan Mahbud, the rebound smashed into his chest before landing in the back of the net.

Just four minutes later, Kedah were unlucky not to take the lead when Tengku Hasbullah unleashed a fantastic volley from the edge of the box that looked to have Izwan beaten, only to come smashing back off the crossbar.

In what was turning out to be a real open game, it was the LIONSXII's turn to threaten in the 35th minute after Shahril found space down the right and fired in a cross that was turned towards goal by Nazrul Nazari from four yards out, but Abdul Hadi Hamid reacted well to push it wide.

Five minutes after the break, Nazrul tested the opposition goalkeeper once more when he cut in from the wing and drilled in a shot that was parried to Faris Ramli, who looked odds on to fire home the rebound at the far post until it was charged down by a couple of desperate defenders.

But the hosts' pressure paid off five minutes after the hour mark when substitute Shahfiq earned a freekick on the edge of the box after being dragged back by Wan Hossen Wan Abdul Ghani, and proceeded to curl an effort past Abdul Hadi at his near post.

With the lead back in their grasp, the LIONSXII began to sit back in hope of consolidating their advantage, but all that did was encourage the visitors to push more men forward in search of a second equaliser.

11 minutes from time, Guc threatened the hosts' goal when he fired in a 20-yard freekick but Izwan was equal to the task and made a smart save down low.

Guc then had another opening seven minutes later after Khyril Muhymeen raced onto a brilliant 30-yard pass by Baddrol Bakhtiar and crossed into the box, only to send it inches ahead of the Croatian striker's desperate lunge.

But as the clock ticked over into added time, Kedah were handed the perfect opportunity to force the draw after Syafiq was felled inside the area by Shakir Hamzah's rash challenge, allowing Guc to step up and fire home the resultant penalty and earn his side a valuable point.

LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Baihakki Khaizan, Shakir Hamzah, Irwan Shah (Hafiz Abu Sujad 51'), Isa Halim, Hariss Harun, Nazrul Nazari, Shahril Ishak (Izzdin Shafiq 74'), Faris Ramli, Fazrul Nawaz (Shahfiq Ghani 54').

Kedah: Abdul Hadi Hamid, Arman Fareez Ali, Fazliata Taib, Fariss Azlan (Sabre Mat Abu 35'), Shahrul Ezrain Samsudin (Wan Hossen Wan Abdul Ghani 40'), Nelson San Martin (Syafiq Ahmad 81'), Tengku Hasbullah, Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Shazuan Ashraf, Alen Guc.

Attendance: 6,830

Image courtesy of FAS (Alfie Lee)



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