MALACCA: V Sundramoorthy threw his head back and looked up at the Malacca sky, the moment the whistle was blown to signal the end of the match. The sigh he let out might not have been audible, but it was clearly felt.
His LionsXII failed to break a resolute and resurgent Kuala Lumpur side in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) encounter at the Hang Jebat Stadium, the 0—0 result on the night virtually quashing any hopes the Singapore side have of marking their return to Malaysian domestic competitions with a league victory.
"Winning the title is difficult from here. Kelantan are the favourites and we just have to focus on finishing second," said a disappointed Sundram. "We dropped two points last week and we dropped two points (last night). We are letting opponents catch up easily."
The LionsXII are still top of the MSL on 40 points, despite a second successive draw after a 3—3 result against Kedah last weekend. They are three points ahead of Kelantan, who have a massive five games in hand, an advantageous situation that few expect them to squander.
Negeri Sembilan have joined the contest for second spot alongside Perak (27), Terengganu (27) and T—Team (27), their 3—1 win over Perak put them in third spot on 29 points, 11 behind LionsXII, but with three games in hand.
Limp, lethargic and with a distinct lack of ideas in front of the Kuala Lumpur goal, the early season promise appears to be fizzling out for the LionsXII. It was a match pitting the top and bottom sides, but for most part last night, few could tell the difference.
"Kuala Lumpur could have beaten us today ... we were lucky not to concede. We couldn’t open up to go out and attack, we needed to stay compact," said Sundram when asked of his conservative approach to the match.
Starting with only Khairul Nizam in attack, the LionsXII played with only one forward until the 80th minute when Sufian Anuar was sent on for Khairul Amri to partner second—half substitute Agu Casmir.
Shahdan Sulaiman’s 28th minute free—kick slipped through Zahid Ahmad’s fingers in the Kuala Lumpur goal, somehow spinning over the bar. The midfielder then failed to convert an Amri cross in the 36th minute.
But it was Firdaus Kasman who spurned the biggest chance of the night, the midfielder taking too long to shoot in the 24th minute after being found by Amri in the box.
It was a case of what—could—have—been for the LionsXII who threw everything at Kuala Lumpur in the last 10 minutes, but it was too little too late, as the Singapore outfit almost certainly conceding the MSL title to Kelantan.
The LionsXII play host to Sarawak next Tuesday.