LIONSXII storm past PKNS to move four clear

LIONSXII moved four points clear at the top of the Malaysia Super League after recording a 3-1 win over ten-man PKNS FC at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Khairul Nizam scores LionsXII third goal PKNS
Gabriel Tan

By Gabriel Tan

Following a goalless first half,Hariss Harun opened the scoring for LIONSXII with a bullet header in the 53rd minute before Nazrul Nazari added a second six minutes later with a deflected strike.

PKNS' hopes of a comeback were all but ended 15 minutes from time when captain Helmi Remeli was harshly issued a straight red and the hosts went on to wrap up the three points when substitute Khairul Nizam got in on the act in the 90th minute, although their excellent evening was slightly tarnished when Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh headed home a consolation for the visitors.

Having seen Darul Takzim move a point behind them last Wednesday, the LIONSXII certainly started the game looking like a side eager to re-establish some breathing space between and their closest challengers.

11 minutes in, they were presented with their first real shooting chance after being awarded a freekick 30 yards out and peculiarly, goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud ventured all the way forward to take it, only to send it straight into the wall.

Four minutes later, the next chance did fall to a more-conventional source of a goal when Safuwan Baharudin, with two goals to his name so far this term, rose highest to meet Baihakki Khaizan's freekick, only for Remezey Che Ros to gather before his downhard header could find a team-mate.

The hosts continued to push forward and Hafiz Abu Sujad was next to threaten the opposition goal with a 20-yard drive that was just wide of the bottom corner, before Remezey was called into action once more in the 25th minute; making a smart save to keep out Fazrul Nawaz's free header.

The best chance of the half then fell to Gabriel Quak a minute after the half-hour mark when Fazrul brought a high ball down inside the area and laid it into his path, but the winger could only blast over from 12 yards out.

Three minutes later, the visitors nearly carved out their first chance when a mix-up between Izwan and Safuwan nearly allowed Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh to race through, but the latter did well to recover in time and clear ahead of the Liberian.

Nonetheless, it had been the LIONSXII who had been the dominant side and although they spent the entire first half struggling and failing to find the back of the net, they only needed eight minutes of the second to finally break the deadlock when Shahril Ishak's pinpoint corner found Hariss, who left Remezey with no chance by emphatically nodding the ball into the back of the net.

PKNS could have mustered a reply instantly in the 57th minute when Helmi was left completely unmarked in the box to meet Fauzan Dzulkifli's freekick, but his header was not the best and Izwan managed to keep it out with a comfortable diving save.

And two minutes later, they were made to pay for that miss as they fell further behind, Fazrul flicking on Izwan's goalkick to Shahril, who held the ball up well before laying it into the path of Nazrul. From an acute angle, the winger unleashed a firm drive that looked set to beat Remezey, although P. Gunalan made sure of that as his deflection took it over the keeper and into the back of the net.

Having played a key role in his side's second, Izwan then weighed in with an equally crucial contribution in the 71st minute; keeping out Nazrin Syamsul's low drive with a diving save before recovering in time to bravely smother with two opponents bearing down on the rebound.

PKNS' evening then went from bad to worse four minutes later when Quak broke free down the left and raced through in between Azlan and Helmi, only to fall over after appearing to be dragged back by the latter.

Replays showed the Red Ants skipper had made the slightest of contacts with the LIONSXII man but referee Samsudin Ibrahim adjuged it to be a last-man foul, and showed Helmi a straight red.

And as the game entered its final minute, the LIONSXII added the icing on the cake when Faritz Hameed nipped in to win possession 45 yards out and raced straight towards goal, before slipping a neat pass to allow Nizam, who was making his first appearance of the season after a wretched run with injuries, to coolly fire into the bottom corner.

Moments later, PKNS managed a consolation when Wleh outjumped Safuwan to meet a left-wing cross and send a header into the top corner, but it was nothing more than a slight blemish on an otherwise faultless display by the LIONSXII.

LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Faris Ramli (Nazrul Nazari 49'), Isa Halim, Hariss Harun, Gabriel Quak, Shahril Ishak (Khairul Nizam 81'), Fazrul Nawaz (Izzdin Shafiq 75').

PKNS FC: Remezey Che Ros, Alyy Imran Samarkhan, Helmi Remeli, Ahmad Azlan Zainal, P. Gunalan, Khairu Azrin Khazali, Fauzan Dzulkifli, Nor Hakim Hassan (Aminuddin Noor 81'), Roman Chmelo (Nazrin Syamsul 46'), Nazmi Faiz (Arip Amiruddin 85'), Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh.

Attendance: 6,098

Image courtesy of FAS (Shirly Hamra)

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