A double from S. Chanturu helped Sarawak to a 3-1 win over defending champions LIONSXII in the Malaysia Super League on Saturday evening.
The winger, who famously tormented LIONSXII in a game back in 2012 when he was playing for Kelantan, opened the scoring after 16 minutes, but the visitors hit back through a Nazrul Nazari header in the 36th minute.
However, Chanturu struck again five minutes before the break to help Sarawak reclaim the lead, and they went out to make sure of the result in the 76th minute when Rashid Aya netted from close range.
The result was enough to send the Crocs up to third on the table and they are only a point behind leaders Terengganu, while the reigning champions’ hopes of retaining the title are in serious doubt given they have won just two of their opening seven games of the new campaign.
Having fallen to a 2-1 home defeat to Kelantan in their last outing, the LIONSXII entered Saturday’s game at the Sarawak State Stadium looking to get back to winning ways.
Nonetheless, Sarawak were also looking to bounce back from a 2-0 loss to T-Team and it was them who started brighter.
12 minutes in, they came close to opening the scoring when Joseph Kalang Tie skipped inside Afiq Yunos before sending a lovely chip over Izwan Mahbud, but Faritz Hameed raced back in time to head it off the line.
But four minutes later, there was to be no denying the hosts after a long throw from Ronny Harun was cleverly flicked on by Junior Eldstal to Chanturu, who made no mistake in heading home at the far post.
Sarawak were then unlucky not to make it 2-0 in the 33rd minute after a Kalang Tie raced onto a lovely through-ball by Rashid and skipped inside Shakir Hamzah before firing past Izwan, only to see it come back off the post.
And three minutes later, LIONSXII capitalised on that close shave by pulling level after opposition goalkeeper Sani Anuar Kamsani could only punch a dangerous cross by Faritz straight to Nazrul; the winger keeping his cool to send a looping header into the back of the unguarded net.
Yet, the hosts continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides and edged ahead once more five minutes before halftime when Rashid slid an excellent pass out right to Chanturu, who raced into the box before coolly stroking the ball into the bottom corner.
Sarawak continued to dominate proceedings in the second half but their inability to add to their lead meant they were always in a vulnerable position.
But in the 76th minute, they made sure of the three points when substitute Zamri Morshidi cut in from the right and threaded a neat pass through to Rashid, who made no mistake in drilling his shot past a hapless Izwan.
The LIONSXII had an excellent chance to pull one back two minutes from time when Safuwan Baharudin raced onto a neat pass by Faris Ramli and poked the ball bast Sani Anuar, but Khairul Nizam somehow failed to connect despite having the whole goal to aim for, compounding a miserable evening for Fandi Ahmad’s charges.
Sarawak: Sani Anuar Kamsani, Mafry Balang, Gabor Gyepes, Ronny Harun, Ramesh Lai (Mazwandi Zekeria 85’), S. Chanturu, Junior Eldstal (Hairol Mokhtar 74’), Lot Abu Hassan, Ashri Chuchu (Zamri Morshidi 67’), Joseph Kalang Tie, Rashid Aya.
LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Nazrul Nazari, Isa Halim (Faris Ramli 55’), Firdaus Kasman, Hafiz Abu Sujad (Shahfiq Ghani 79’), Safuwan Baharudin, Khairul Amri (Khairul Nizam 62’).