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LionsXII begin season on losing note

KUANTAN — The LionsXII failed to get the Malaysian Super League title defence off to a winning start after they were defeated 1-0 by Pahang in the season opener yesterday night.

KUANTAN — The LionsXII failed to get the Malaysian Super League title defence off to a winning start after they were defeated 1-0 by Pahang in the season opener yesterday night.

Substitute Matias Conti struck just before the hour mark to seal three points and the Charity Shield for Pahang and deny new LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad all three points on his competitive debut.

There were plenty of goal-scoring chances in the first half and it was the home side that came closest to breaking the deadlock.

Nigerian forward Dickson Nwakaeme could have given his side the lead as early as the first minute, while defender Damion Stewart — a constant menace to the LionsXII defence at set-pieces — wasted three gilt-edged chances to put the ball in the back of the net.

The LionsXII — who were without last season’s influential figures Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan and Hariss Harun — had chances of their own to take the lead.

The attacking midfield trio of Zulfahmi Arifin, Gabriel Quak and Hafiz Abu Sujad sliced the Pahang defence open on at least three occasions in the first half with their swift passing movements, but forwards Sufian Anuar and Khairul Amri were wasteful.

The LionsXII brought on Faris Ramli to replace Quak at the start of the second half but, once again, it was Pahang who came closest to taking the lead.

Conti connected with a cross in the 55th minute, but Singapore custodian Izwan Mahbud pulled off a brilliant save from point blank range.

However, the Argentine forward was not to be denied in the 58th minute.

Izwan came off his line to deny Azamuddin Akil, but the rebound fell kindly to Conti, who had the easy task of slotting the ball into an empty net.

The goal prompted the LionsXII to pour forward in search of an equaliser, but that left them exposed at the back. Thankfully for the Singaporean side, Conti struggled to find his shooting boots in the closing stages of the game, missing a host of opportunities to extend his side’s lead.

Despite the loss, fans were positive about the future of the current LionsXII team. Andrew Lim said on Facebook: “Give them some time, every new team needs time to gel and bond. After a few games, they will find their rhythm and momentum.”

Lim Jin Xing said: “(Fandi) only just took over the team and his training hasn’t fully taken effect yet. Give them some more time and I believe they will deliver results.”

The LionsXII will play KL DRB Hicom FC next Tuesday at the Bishan Stadium.

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