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LIONSXII CRASHED OUT OF FA CUP AGAINST RESOLUTE TERENGGANU

Dejected Lions (in white) being consoled by their opponents, Terengganu (in yellow) after the match. (Photo: FAS)

The injury-plagued LionsXII put up a gallant fight for 90 minutes but could not break down a resolute Terengganu defense, a result that saw them eliminated from the FA Cup 1-0 on aggregate.

The Lions attacked from the first whistle but could not create any clear cut chances at goal until the 15
th minute when Irwan Shah delivered an inviting cross into the penalty box but Khairul Nizam was inches away from connecting with the header.

Khairul Nizam (in white) was kept at bay during the match by Ahmad Muslim’s (in yellow) aggressive challenges. (Photo: FAS)

It was all-even in the first half with the Lions dominating the possession, restricting Terengganu to the rare attempt on goal from range.

The second half begun in similar fashion with the Lions pressing hard, but they couldn’t create any opportunities as Terengganu tightened up their defense.

With the match in a deadlock and a looming elimination from the cup, Lions coach V. Sundramoorthy sent on Shahril Ishak much to the applause of the home fans.
 
Terengganu players constantly closed down Shahril Ishak (in white) refraining him to fire a single shot. (Photo: FAS)

The introduction of Shahril Ishak did not change the match as Terengganu stuck to their game plan and closed down the Lions quickly, restricting their passing movement to high balls.

A cup moment almost happened right at the end when Shahdan Sulaiman floated in a beautiful cross to an unmarked Safuwan Baharudin in the six-yard box, only to see his header went straight into the hands of the keeper Sharbinee Allawee.
 
 
The away fans making their voices heard throughout the match. (Photo: FAS)

The away fans sung loudly as the final whistle blew, sending the defending champions into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they would face Sime Darby, a second-tier premier league outfit. Terengganu Coach Mat Zan Mat Aris however, was coy when asked about his team chances to retain the cup stating, “They (Sime Darby) are not an easy opponent.”

Disappointment could be seen from the players and the fans in the stadium but coach V. Sundramoorthy praised the efforts of his team adding that he couldn’t ask for anything more and felt sorry they couldn’t qualify for the semi-final.

Sundramoorthy though was adamant that his team was the better side as he questioned, “Who’s the defending champion as we’re the one pushing them.”

Looking ahead, he expects his charges to concentrate on the league title and they will be boosted with the return of key players.