LIONSXII leave it late to down Kelantan

Shahfiq Ghani struck an 87th-minute winner to hand LIONSXII a 1-0 victory over Kelantan in the Malaysia Super League on Saturday evening.

Fahmi watches on helplessly...
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

In an evenly-contested clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium that saw both side carve out their fair share of chances, it appeared as though the tie was headed for a draw as neither LIONSXII keeper Izwan Mahbud and his opposite number Khairul Fahmi refused to be beaten.

But with three minutes later on the clock, Shahfiq broke free and expertly slid the ball into the bottom corner to hand his side all three points.

The victory would have been particularly pleasing to coach V. Sundramoorthy given it came without two regular first-teamers in Baihakki Khaizan and Hafiz Abu Sujad, who were both suspended after picking up cards in their last game against FELDA United.

Despite the missing duo, it was the hosts who started the brighter on Saturday and came close early on when Faris Ramli raced through on goal, only to fire straight at the legs of Fahmi.

Red Warriors striker Keita Mandjou then had the ball in the back of the net but it was correctly ruled out of offside, before Safuwan Baharudin had to be alert to head away a dangerous corner by Badhri Radzi just before the half-hour mark.

By now, Kelantan had begun to get into their groove and they nearly opened the scoring six minutes before the break, when Badhri tried his luck from the edge of the area with a shot that caught Izwan out but narrowly missed the top corner.

Six minutes after the hour mark, it was the LIONSXII's turn to put the ball into the back of the net when Shahfiq raced onto a lovely through-ball by Faris and fired past the onrushing Fahmi, but it was chalked off by the linesman's flag again.

Fahmi made another smart save in the seven minutes from time when he gathered a fierce left-wing cross by Gabriel Quak at the near post, just as Shahril Ishak looked set to pounce.

But there was little he could do four minutes later when Shahfiq finally broke the deadlock by netting what proved to be the winner, timing his run to perfection to latch onto an incisive through-pass by Irwan Shah, before coolly poking a shot into the bottom corner.

LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Irwan Shah, Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Isa Halim, Nazrul Nazari (Fazrul Nawaz 82'), Shahril Ishak, Zulfahmi Arifin (Safirul Sulaiman 64'), Faris Ramli (Gabriel Quak 72'), Shahfiq Ghani.

Kelantan: Khairul Fahmi, Daudsu Jamaluddin, Obinna Nwaneri, Nik Shahrul Azim, Zairul Fitree Ishak, Shakir Shaari, Badhri Radzi, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Haris Safwan (Zamri Ramli 81'), Faiz Subri (Zairo Anuar Zalani 80'), Keita Mandjou.

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