LIONSXII stay top with easy T-Team triumph

Malaysia Super League leaders LIONSXII hardly broke a sweat on Saturday as they picked up their 10th win of the season by beating an abject T-Team 3-0.

Fazrul heads home LIONSXII's third goal!
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

Shahril Ishak got the hosts on their way when he opened the scoring in the 10th minute, before two pinpoint corners from him either side of the half-hour mark led to goals for Shakir Hamzah and Fazrul Nawaz.

T-Team did briefly give their opponents a scare when they had two efforts that came back off the woodwork early on in the second half, but the LIONSXII were always in control and ultimately held on for all three points.

Having seen ATM tentatively move top of the table earlier in the day with a 1-0 win over FELDA United, V. Sundramoorthy's charges entered Saturday evening's game looking to reclaim their one-point lead at the summit.

Just ten minutes in, they got off to the perfect start when Faris Ramli exchanged a neat one-two with Hariss Harun down the left before whipping in a cross straight to the feet of Shahril. Despite a couple of defenders in close attention, the Singapore captain did well to create space for himself before drilling an effort past Iqbal Suhaimi to open the scoring.

Two minutes before the half-hour mark, the hosts carved out another good opportunity when Nazrul Nazari got into a tangle with Syuhiran Zainal down the right but recovered the quicker of the two to pick up the loose ball and cut it back to Fazrul, who fired away a shot that was deflected over.

But from the resultant corner, the LIONSXII duly made it 2-0 with Shahril turning provider this time around, sending a perfectly-weighted cross to the unmarked Shakir, who made no mistake in sending his back-post header into the back of the net.

Four minutes later, Shakir thought he had scored a second when he sent a bullet header into the back of the net after Safuwan Baharudin had flicked a Faris cross into his path, but this time, the linesman's flag came to T-Team's rescue as the goal was chalked off for offside.

But there was no denying the hosts in the 35th minute when Shahril lined up another corner - this time on the left - and floated a ball into the six-yard box, where Fazrul proceeded to outjump Iqbal and nod home from close range.

Although their first-half display was nothing short of abject, the Titans showed much more initiative after the break and created their first opening of the match in the 47th minute, George Boateng finding space inside the area and firing a shot away that was well blocked by Safuwan.

A minute later, the Dutchman had another chance when he played a one-two with Damir Ibric and looked set to burst through on goal, but Shakir was alert to the danger and made a good recovering challenge to halt T-Team's progress.

By now, the visitors were beginning to grow in confidence and they were unlucky not to pull one back in the 61st minute after Shafuan Adli lined up a 25-yard freekick and fired in a delightful curling effort that had Izwan Mahbud beaten all ends up, only to see it come back off the post.

The woodwork came to the LIONSXII's rescue again just five minutes later when Hafizan Talib found space down the right and played in a perfect cross to pick out Boateng two yards out from goal, but he could only turn send his first-time effort into the bar.

Aware that their opponents were genuinely threatening to get back into the game, the LIONSXII started showing more urgency in their bid to find a fourth to kill of any hopes T-Team had of a comeback.

In the 73rd minute, Hafiz Abu Sujad went on a barnstorming run down the left and skipped inside Mazlizam Mohamad before laying the ball back to Hariss Harun, whose ferocious shot from the edge of the box was unconvincingly parried to safety by Iqbal.

11 minutes later, T-Team had their best chance to grab a consolation when Boateng broke free down the left and slipped a pass through to the unmarked Azrul Hazran, but Izwan, who hardly had a save to make all evening long, raced out well to deny the winger in a one-on-one situation.

A minute from time, the LIONSXII thought they had finally grabbed a deserving fourth when Shahril floated a brilliant ball to the back post for Faris to fire past Iqbal at his near post, but the linesman's flag once again denied them as the effort was ruled out.

Nonetheless, it mattered little in the end as the LIONSXII held on to make it eight straight home wins to maintain their 100% record at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud (Khairulhin Khalid 86'), Faritz Hameed, Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Isa Halim, Hariss Harun, Shahril Ishak, Nazrul Nazari (Hafiz Abu Sujad 69'), Faris Ramli, Fazrul Nawaz (Izzdin Shafiq 79').

T-Team: Iqbal Suhaimi, Mazlizam Mohamad, Nuraliff Zainal Abidin (Shazlan Alias 72'), Hassan Basri, Syuhiran Zainal, Ahmad Takhiyuddin (Hafizan Talib 59'), Hasbullah Awang, George Boateng, Azrul Hazran, Abdul Latiff Suhaimi (Shafuan Adli 35'), Damir Ibric.

Attendance: 6,438

Image courtesy of FAS (Jervis Mun)

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