Defending champions LIONSXII got back to winning ways in the Malaysia Super League on Saturday after coming from behind to beat PKNS FC 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
It was the visitors who took the lead a minute after the half-hour mark when Nazmi Faiz netted from the edge of the box, but Zulfahmi Arifin pulled LIONSXII level with a sublime freekick in the 43rd minute.
And right on the hour mark, the comeback was complete after Faris Ramli scored with a powerful drive to hand the three points to Fandi Ahmad’s charges.
Entering the game on the back of defeats to Kelantan and Sarawak, the LIONSXII looked a side determined to get back to winning ways as they showed plenty of initiative and adventure from the opening whistle.
However, it was PKNS who had the first chance after seven minutes when Kim Dong-chan met Khairu Azrin Khazali’s corner at the near post, but was only able to head over.
The LIONSXII then threatened the opposition goal for the first time in the 16th minute when Khairul Amri won possession down the left and skipped inside Helmi Remeli, before sending a shot from the edge of the box over.
Amri came close three minutes later when he took Firdaus Kasman’s long ball into his stride with a brilliant first touch before cutting inside an opponent, only to bend a left-footed effort just wide of the far post.
Right on the half-hour mark, it was Firdaus’ turn to try his luck after letting fly from 30 yards following a brilliant turn in the middle of the park, but his shot sailed inches wide.
A minute later, it was the visitors who took the lead against the run of play after a lapse in concentration from the LIONSXII defence allowed Nazmi to pounce on a loose ball, and coolly drill his shot past Izwan Mahbud into the bottom corner.
But two minutes before halftime, the hosts duly pulled level after Zulfahmi won a freekick on the edge of the box after being tripped by Fauzan Dzulkifli, and proceeded to curl a sublime effort into the top corner.
Zulfahmi was unlucky not to repeat the feat on the stroke of halftime after another foul by Fauzan on Faris 25 yards out; his excellent attempt kept out by the bar with Remezey Che Ros beaten all ends up.
Fauzan was having a forgettable game up till that point but he nearly made amends in the 58th minute when he floated an excellent freekick into the area, only for Karlo Primorac to glance wide after out-jumping his opponent.
Straight after, LIONSXII boss Fandi decided to add more energy to his attack by introducing Sufian Anuar for Firdaus, and it took the 26-year-old less than a minute to make an impact.
Gaining possession on the edge of the box, he cleverly played the ball to Amri, who immediately spread it out left to Faris.
Taking a touch to steady, the winger kept his cool despite an impending challenge from Abdul Ghani Rahman and proceeded to unleash a ferocious left-footed drive that was too powerful for Remezey to keep out.
Amri, who was having an excellent game, could have grabbed a goal his performance deserved two minutes later when he skipped past two men and broke into the box, but could only curl his shot straight at Remezey.
As the game entered its closing stages, PKNS mounted one final attempt to grab a share of the spoils but they were just unable to find a way past the resilient opposition defence.
Fauzan looked set to play Shahrul Azhar Ture through in the 73rd minute with a slide-rule ball but Faritz was alert and made a vital clearance, before Safuwan Baharudin’s brave block prevented Hamka Hamzah’s snapshot from testing Izwan six minutes from time.
Safuwan then had an opportunity to make sure of the three points in the 86th minute after meeting Zulfahmi’s deep corner at the far post with a firm header but it was blocked off the line, although the LIONSXII had done enough by then for a vital win.
LIONSXII: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Safuwan Baharudin, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Raihan Rahman (Isa Halim 80’), Firdaus Kasman (Sufian Anuar 59’), Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari (Madhu Mohana 80’), Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri.
PKNS FC: Remezey Che Ros, Abdul Ghani Rahman, Helmi Remeli, Hamka Hamzah, P. Gunalan, Fauzan Dzulkifli (Nazrin Syamsul Bahri 82’), Khairu Azrin Khazali, Nazmi Faiz, Shahrul Azhar Ture, Kim Dong-chen (Patrick Wleh 55’), Karlo Primorac.