Shahfiq let the team down: LionsXII coach Sundram
KUCHING- The LionsXII may be the new champions of the Malaysian Super League. But their Malaysia Cup journey is in trouble.
The 1-2 loss to Sarawak at the State Stadium tonight (Aug 24) and last Tuesday’s opening 2-2 draw against Kedah at home have left V Sundramoorthy’s men with only one point out of a possible six - not the kind of start that they would have wanted or imagined.
And what it means now is that the LionsXII have to win their next match to keep their Cup hopes alive. The only problem is that the fixture is another away match, and it is against MSL rivals Perak in Ipoh, who have always been strong, decisive and lethal at home.
To add to Sundram’s headaches, he now has one less option in attack after striker Shahfiq Ghani was shown the red card tonight.
Skipper Shahril Ishak is also still not fully recovered from his knee injury despite coming off the bench tonight to try to prevent the LionsXII from falling to defeat.
Even though the LionsXII are the MSL champions, it was Sarawak, the champions of the second-tier Malaysian Premier League (MPL) who took the lead in the 10th minute.
Driven on by their 35,000-strong home support, the Crocs got a dream start when LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud’s poor punch off Ronny Harun’s long throw rebounded of Shakir Hamzah’s back and into the back of the net to give the home side the lead in the 10th minute.
Buoyed by the early lead, Sarawak grew in strength and stature despite the loss of star midfielder Guy Bwele midway through the first half, while the only time the LionsXII came close to scoring was in the 39th minute when Aqhari Abdullah’s effort blocked for a corner .
Shahril came on in the second half to add some life into the LionsXII attack but was powerless to prevent his side from conceding a penalty and going 2-0 down.
But it was Shafiq who was to blame for that. The young striker, who came on as a 65th-minute substitute, gave away a penalty when he slapped Sarawak’s Bosnian striker Muamer Salasbasic. He was shown the red card, a move which effectively killed off the LionsXII’s hopes of pulling off a win.