Sunday, 17 May 2015

Amri brace guides LionsXII to first-ever Malaysia FA Cup final


LionsXII striker Khairul Amri's brace against Terengganu in the Malaysia FA Cup semifinal second leg on Saturday helped his side secure their maiden berth in the final. Photo credit: LionsXII.

LionsXII sealed a spot in the Malaysia FA Cup final despite a 3-2 away loss to Terengganu at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium on Saturday night.

The Singapore team went through on away goals after a 2-1 victory at home last weekend made it 4-4 on aggregate as the home side saw import players Paulo Rangel and Gustavo Lopez receive late red cards.

Terengganu came out all guns blazing, led by the attacking quartet of Issey Nakajima-Farran, Lopez, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Rangel.

Norshahrul carved out the first real opportunity of the game in the opening minutes when he put Rangel through, only to see the Brazilian hitman's grounder skim across a diving Izwan Mahbud.

Mat Yo tormented the LionsXII defence again in the 17th minute. After a mazy dribble on the left wing, he placed the ball on a platter for Issey. But the Canadian-born forward skewed his shot when it looked much easier to score.

The partisan crowd went into complete silence a minute later when the visitors opened the scoring after a swift counter-attacking move.

Nazrul Nazari received the ball in the middle of the park and sent a chip towards Amri who out-jumped Vincent Bikana before rounding goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee to slot it into the net for a 3-1 aggregate to LionsXII.

Just when things looked bleak for the Turtles, Issey made up for his earlier miss on 22 minutes when he sent in a delightful cross for Rangel to put a looping header past Izwan, who misjudged the flight of the ball.

Up stepped Amri again in the 28th minute, and the veteran Singapore striker made it 1-2 to LionsXII when he almost tore the net with a rasping shot for his fifth goal of the tournament.

Terengganu never stopped trying and some half-chances fell to Gustavo and Norshahrul. But Rangel came closest some six minutes before the break when he swiveled his way towards goal but Izwan was up to the task as he gathered the ball comfortably.

The Turtles made it two apiece right at the stroke of half-time when Safuwan Baharudin was adjudged to have shoved Rangel off the ball inside the box. The Brazilian stepped up and blasted it straight down the middle to make it all to play for in the second period.

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad took a cautious approach by sending in Firdaus Kasman for Raihan Rahman, with Nazrul slotting in at right-back while Firdaus took his place in right midfield.

Izwan showed his captain's mettle when he effected a point-blank save in the 55th minute off Rangel's shot from a pinpoint cut-back from substitute Ismail Faruqi.

There was a contentious decision in the Terengganu box three minutes later. It looked like Bikana had deflected Firdaus' cross with his arm. However, the referee waved play on.

The crowd were up on their feet a minute later to celebrate the home team's third goal on the night, courtesy of Malaysian international Norshahrul. Rangel's low cross bobbled around the box before Mat Yo essayed a scissor-kick that went past Izwan in slow motion.

With 18 minutes to go, Gustavo tried to find Rangel at the far post, but the latter failed to trouble the Singapore custodian with his weak header.

Nordin Alias thought he was the hero of the night when he headed the ball into the net in the 89th minute, but the entire Terengganu team were left frustrated when the linesman disallowed the goal for offside.

Rangel was sent off in the ensuing melee when he kicked a ball at the match official. Gustavo followed him when he shoved the referee from behind to leave the home side with nine men and a bruised ego.

LionsXII saw out the remaining seconds and will now take on Kelantan on May 23 at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

Terengganu: Sharbinee Allawee, Zubir Azmi, Hasmizan Kamarodin, Vincent Bikana, Helmi Remeli, Nordin Alias,Zairo Anuar (C), Issey Nakajima-Farran (Ismail Faruqi 41'), Gustavo Lopez, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Ashari Samsudin 79'), Paulo Rangel

LionsXII: Izwan Mahbud (GK)(C), Hafiz Sujad, Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin, Raihan Rahman (Firdaus Jasman 45'), Nazrul Nazari, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Gabriel Quak, Khairul Amri (Isa Halim 88'), Khaizul Nizam (Sufian Anuar 64')


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