Football: LionsXII impress Fandi in 2-2 draw with Johor

SINGAPORE: Fandi Ahmad was left shocked and impressed after his star-studded Johor Darul Takzim were forced to share the spoils at a packed Larkin Stadium, as they drew 2-2 with an impressive LionsXII side in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) on Tuesday night.

Fandi told reporters after the match that he and his players were shocked that the LionsXII had opted to go on the offensive from the start, saying that he had expected V Sundramoorthy's side to adopt "a more counterattacking strategy".

"This has been the best I've seen the LionsXII play," praised Fandi. "I'm also quite puzzled why my players couldn't rise to the occasion tonight and perform."

Indeed, there was a very different look to the LionsXII on Tuesday as they refused to sit back in the first half and often pressed forward in numbers in search of goals.

The LionsXII hardly looked in awe of Johor - who boast the likes of former Lazio player Simone Del Nero and former Spanish international Daniel Guiza - and impressed with fluid passing and hard tackling.

Their desire to draw first blood did not take long to pay dividends when Hariss Harun - who was playing his first match since he suffered a broken fibula in November - blasted the visitors into the lead after four minutes.

The Larkin Stadium was thoroughly silenced by the midfield lynchpin, but it was only for a moment.

Just six minutes later, Johor's livewire midfielder Nurul Azwan lost his marker and sent a low cross into the area which Del Nero superbly headed past goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud to score his first club goal.

Eager to reclaim the initiative, Sundram's charges continued to attack and were rewarded in the 37th minute when Baihakki Khaizan scored with a spectacular diving header following a free-kick.

The match continued to be played at a frenetic pace even after the restart and Fandi soon brought on even more firepower in Safee Sali.

With Safee, Guiza and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha now in attack, the LionsXII found themselves pegged back and digging deep to defend.

Fandi's decision to overload the attack eventually paid off as Norshahrul shrugged off tired LionsXII defenders and fired home Johor's equaliser from 20 yards out.

Despite not bagging the win, Sundram was satisfied with the result, praising his players for the tenacity they displayed.

He said: "I'm very happy the players fought for every ball tonight. The MSL is a very physical league and we've got to be able to fight hard on the field. Player to player, I'm very pleased that our boys can compete against Fandi's."


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