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Report of LionsXII vs Perak

Drawing 1-1 against Perak FA with six minutes to go, the LionsXII needed someone to step up as they went in search of a first victory in the Malaysia Cup this season.

Captain Hariss Harun had done his part by heading home the opener, only for the visitors to equalise quickly.

With time running out, it was the indefatigable Safuwan Baharudin who showed all the class of a top centre-forward to lift a fine finish over goalkeeper Farizal Marlias for a superb winner.

Having garnered only a single point from their first three games, the LionsXII were in desperate need of a victory to keep their dreams alive before kickoff in front of a 7,016-strong Jalan Besar crowd.

Hariss was pushed up to play behind striker Fazrul Nawaz in the absence of the injured Shahril Ishak, with Gabriel Quak and Faris Ramli flanking them.

V. Sundramoorthy’s men started with purpose but could have fallen behind after just six minutes.

A mazy, jinking run from winger Chanturu Suppiah saw him bamboozle four LionsXII players before his shot was parried onto the post by Izwan Mahbud.

The hosts were full of fight but couldn’t create any clear chances with corners coming to nought and Quak’s freekick from the edge of the area deflected to safety.

Chanturu’s pace was proving to be a useful outlet on the break and another good run in the 17th minute saw him square the ball for Sivakumar Munusamy outside the area, with Baihakki Khaizan making the block.

But the winger was fortunate not to be sent off four minutes later after kicking out at Shakir Hamzah following a challenge, with referee Nafeez Wahab deciding to show only the yellow card after consulting his linesman.

Giant centreback Rafael Silva was a dominant figure in the Perak backline as Azraai Khor’s side dealt well with set-pieces, a traditional strength of the LionsXII.

Safuwan had the opportunity to do just that in the 41st minute, but put his header over from Faris’s good cross. Two minutes later, Quak slammed a shot well wide from a good position inside the box on his less-favoured right foot.

The chances continued to come after the break for the men in red, Hariss heading a freekick weakly at goalkeeper Farizal Marlias and Shakir blasting wide from 30 yards.

Perak were happy to stick to their counter-attacking strategy and could have taken the lead on the hour mark when Hadi Yahya threaded a lovely pass to Paulo Rangel, but the striker’s effort was well saved.

Sixty seconds later, their opponents took the lead. Hariss timed his run from deep to perfection and glanced a right-wing cross from half-time substitute Zulfahmi Arifin into the far corner.

But the LionsXII’s joy lasted for all of three minutes as left-back Noor Hazrul thundered a stunning 25-yard freekick over the wall and into the corner, with Izwan only able to help the ball in.

Rangel then saw his header from Shahrulnizam Mustapha pushed by Izwan onto the post, before the ball appeared to roll back across the line in the 79th minute. But the unconvinced referee did not award the goal, as Izwan scooped the ball back out.

The LionsXII ruthlessly capitalised on that let-off when they regained the lead five minutes later through a goal of the highest quality.

Pushed upfront to aid in the hunt for goals, Safuwan chested down Izwan’s massive goalkick and shrugged off two defenders before advancing into the box. With the onrushing Farizal rapidly closing down angle, the centreback deftly lobbed the goalkeeper for a finish any striker would have been proud of.

Asyraf Sahizah headed a cross narrowly wide at the far post in added time to spurn Perak’s last opportunity, as the Malaysian Super League champions prevailed to fight another day.

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