LIONSXII were held to a second consecutive draw in the Malaysia Super League on Saturday after playing out a 0-0 draw with Terengganu at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the defending champions failed to find a way past a resolute Terengganu defence and had to settle for a point 11 days after a 2-2 draw with Johor Darul Ta’zim.
Having been dealt their first home defeat of the season last Saturday – a 2-1 loss to Pahang in the FA Cup – Fandi Ahmad’s charges started the match looking like a side determined to get back to winning ways.
They had an excellent chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Faritz Hameed’s dangerous right-wing cross left Khairul Amri unmarked inside the six-yard box, but he was unable to keep a difficult header now.
A minute later, Amri’s attempted shot deflected through to Isa Halim, who looked odds on to open the scoring, only for Sharbinee Allawee Ramli to race out well and deny him in a one-on-one situation.
The Terengganu goalkeeper was called into action again in the 23rd minute, making a smart save to deny Gabriel Quak, after the winger had raced onto Shahfiq Ghani’s neat pass and fired away from a tight angle.
By now, the hosts were completely in control of proceedings and the Turtles only managed to really threaten just before halftime; Mamadou Barry beating Shakir Hamzah down the right before cutting it back to Nor Hakim Hassan, whose shot was well blocked by Safuwan Baharudin.
The LIONSXII continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides in the second half and in the 49th minute, Shahfiq came excruciatingly close to opening the scoring when he sent a delightful 25-yard freekick inches wide of the top corner.
Four minutes later, they came even closer after Faris Ramli burst past Mazlizam Mohamad and played the ball into the box where Amri managed to force the ball past Sharbinee, only to see it come back off the post.
To their credit, the visitors did attack with intent on their brief forays into the attacking third; Mario Karlovic sending a dipping long-range strike just over Izwan Mahbud’s crossbar in the 56th minute.
But as the game entered its closing stages, the LIONSXII mustered one final push in search of the winner and Amri had another good effort in the 77th minute, meeting Faritz’s cross with a spectacular bicycle kick that was straight at Sharbinee.
Seven minutes from time, Amri broke the offside trap and raced onto Shahfiq’s glorious reverse pass but just as he was about to break into the box, Ahmad Azlan made a brilliant sliding challenge to halt his progress.
Shahfiq was then guilty of wasting an excellent chance in the 87th minute when he sent a volley wide on his weaker right foot, after Faris’ deflected cross had dropped to him in acres of space inside the area.
Terengganu nearly made the hosts pay for their wasteful ways two minutes later after being awarded a freekick on the edge of the box, but Izwan was alert to the danger and did well to tip over a blistering strike from Zairo Anuar Zalani.
As the game entered injury-time, the LIONSXII had one final opportunity to grab the three points after Shakir charged down the left and floated a cross to the unmarked Faris, but the 21-year-old got his header completely wrong as the Turtles held on for a valuable point.
LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Safuwan Baharudin, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Isa Halim, Zulfahmi Arifin (Faris Ramli 46’), Gabriel Quak (Nazrul Nazari 64’), Shahfiq Ghani, Hafiz Abu Sujad (Madhu Mohana 87’), Khairul Amri.
Terengganu: Sharbinee Allawee Ramli, Mazlizam Mohamad, Ahmad Azlan Zainal, Vincent Bikana, Zubir Azmi, Ahmad Nordin Alias, Mario Karlovic, Nor Hakim Hassan (Fakhurazi Musa 63’), Ismail Faruqi Asha’ri (Zairo Anuar Zalani 75’), Ashaari Shamsuddin (Abdul Manaf Mamat 82’), Mamadou Barry.