By Teng Kiat | Yahoo Newsroom
Yahoo Newsroom - Terengganu goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee was in good form against the LionsXII (Photo: FAS)
The LionsXII took a step closer to the final of the Malaysia FA Cup on Saturday night as they edged Terengganu FA 2-1 in the first leg of their semi-final.
Khairul Nizam and Faris Ramli struck within five minutes of each other in the first half, although Fandi Ahmad’s men really should have registered a larger margin of victory at Jalan Besar Stadium.
A series of missed opportunities in the second half left the Turtles with hope of overturning the deficit at home in a week’s time, thanks to Gustavo Lopez’s crucial away goal before half-time.
Fandi said he “couldn’t believe” what he saw as the LionsXII carved apart their opponents almost at will, but failed to add to the scoreline.
“I am very disappointed in the score, but I'm very happy that we won,” he said after the game.
“We live to fight another day and I hope our players will keep up the momentum… It was good to see that we created a lot of chances, but our finishing wasn’t there.”
Nizam was the biggest culprit as he spurned the LionsXII’s clearest opening on 55 minutes, side-footing wide from eight yards with the goal gaping after Khairul Amri had laid the ball on a platter.
Khairul Nizam reacts after scoring the opening goal for LionsXII in their FA Cup semi-final (Photo: FAS)
Terengganu goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee was in fine form as well, denying Amri in the first half and then Safuwan in the second half with good stops.
The pick of the bunch came in the closing stages when he brilliantly tipped Amri’s powerful header on to the bar, with the performance drawing praise from both Fandi and his own coach Abdul Rahman Ibrahim.
The first 45 minutes was a far tighter affair though. Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Lopez threatened early on for the visitors, but the hosts grew stronger as it wore on.
The returning Safuwan Baharudin misfired a shot from right in front of goal, before the deadlock was broken on the half-hour mark. After Nizam’s initial header off Gabriel Quak’s free-kick was blocked, he reacted quickest to lash the loose ball into the bottom corner.
It was two soon after as Nazrul Nazari’s cross from the right fell to Faris at the far post, who promptly slammed in his fourth goal of the campaign.
However, Terengganu responded through Lopez’s precise free-kick in the 39th minute and were unfortunate not to then equalise.
On the stroke of half-time, Norshahrul set up Ashaari Shamsudin for a 20-yard curler that came off the right post. The former then crossed the rebound for Abdul Manaf Mamat to crash another strike off the same post.
Fandi acknowledged that the LionsXII would need to “prepare better” defensively for the return leg on May 16, especially with Paulo Rangel set to return for Terengganu. The Brazilian hitman, who was suspended for this match, has struck 12 goals in all competitions so far.
“They will have Rangel back and maybe Issey [Nakajima-Farran], so we need to be very tight at the back,” he asserted. “Most importantly, we need to close down the passing angles to this guy, because he doesn’t move much [upfront].
“We want to go there and get an early goal; we need to stay focused and have the belief we will make it through [to the final].”
LionsXII: Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin, Hafiz Sujad, Gabriel Quak (Syafiq Zainal 67’), Safuwan Baharudin, Izzdin Shafiq, Faris Ramli (Sufian Anuar 88’), Khairul Nizam (Sahil Suhaimi 65’), Khairul Amri.
Terengganu: Sharbinee Allawee, Helmi Remeli, Azlan Zainal, Vincent Bikana, Zubir Azmi, Nordin Alias (C), Sharin Sapien (Hafizal Mohamad 81’), Abdul Manaf Mamat (Fakhrurazi Musa 86’), Gustavo Lopez, Ashaari Shamsudin (Zairo Anuar 69’), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.