LionsXII overcame a poor start to their Malaysia Cup campaign to qualify for the quarter finals as Group runners-up (photo by Sylvester Chin/FAS).
Malaysian Super League champions have completed their great escape in the 2013 Malaysia Cup as they advanced to the quarter-finals after an inspiring 3-1 win away to Kedah FA and end the group stage as runners-up, level on points with group winners Sarawak who have a superior goal difference.
Singapore internationals Hariss Harun and Baihakki Khaizan grabbed a goal each in the first half, with Kedah’s Alen Guc pulling a goal back for his side before the half-time interval.
But the match was put beyond the Canaries’ reach in the second half as Hafiz Sujad scored a brilliant long range strike six minutes after the hour mark for LionsXII.
Progression was far from smooth sailing as V.Sundramoorthy’s men was languishing at the bottom of the table after three matches after collecting just a solitary point in their first three matches.
They were unfortunate to start the campaign with a 2-2 draw against Kedah, conceding a penalty in the dying minute of the match before suffering two consecutive defeats on the road.
The trip to Kuching, going up against the Malaysian Premier League champions Sarawak was one of their toughest matches in the group stages with LionsXII inflicted a 2-1 reverse, and going down to a slender one goal defeat in their following match against Perak in Ipoh.
But determined to keep their hopes of a double alive, LionsXII marched on to win their next three matches and will now face the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) in a two-legged tie in the next round.
Revival was kicked off in front of a capacity packed home crowd as the LionsXII showed their mettle and put on a spirited display picking up maximum points against Perak and Sarawak at the Jalan Besar stadium.
With the match tied at one apiece, Safuwan Baharudin was pushed up front in the final ten minutes and the central defender scored the winner against Perak while Fazrul Nawaz got the all-important goal against Sarawak.
With that showing, all they needed was a point in their final group stage match against Kedah but they went one better and grabbed all three points, finishing the group on ten points, level with Sarawak who have a superior goal difference.
Revenge will be on the cards for LionsXII in the quarters as they were cruelly knocked out in the semi final stage a year ago against the same opponents via the dreaded penalty-shootout.
Their Houdini-esque escape in the group stage has also caught the attention of Singapore’s President Dr Tony Tan who posted a congratulatory message on his Facebook page.
“Congratulations to the LionsXII on winning tonight’s match against Kedah to secure a place in the knockout stage of the Malaysia Cup,” posted the Republic’s President, “The LionsXII has displayed resilience in overcoming its rough start in the group playoffs. Well done! My best wishes to Coach Sundram and the team for the quarter-finals.”