*Sahil’s brace buries the Red Warriors
* Lions punish the Red Warriors for their missed chances
Singapore may well build their SEA Games hopes after the Lions XII created football history as the first foreign team to win the FA Cup – with a sterling performance which brought them the silverware with a 3-1 in the final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
And all the three goals were scored by their SEA Games trainees with substitute Sahil Suhaimi coming off the bench to hit a brace in the 81st minute and 91st minute after another SEA Games trainee Faris Ramli had opened scoring as early as the seventh minute.
In between Wan Zack Haikal had given Kelantan a ray of hope with the equaliser on 62 minutes. But it did little to change the Red Warriors hopes on a night when the two-time champions missed a bagful of misses.
And Lions XII coach Fandi Ahmad can thank the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for fulfilling his request to release all his SEA Games players. Apart from Faris and Sahil the others were Christopher van Huizen and Zakir Samsuddin.
Kelantan were the favourites, having won the FA Cup in 2012 and 2013 but the Singapore outfit, in Fandi’s own words “were disciplined and focused” and hungry to win take the silverware across the causeway despite taking the underdog tag against the Malaysian powerhouse who went into the final with an impressive 6-1 record in seven meetings since 2012.
“Our plans to get an early goal worked well. Our fitness also gave us the edge as seen in the last 20 minutes,” said Fandi.
The 100,000 capacity stadium saw a sellout crowd of 80,000 and was a sea of Red as supporters of both teams were dressed in RED – with more than 70,000 fans in Kelantan colours.
But on the pitch the blue shirted Lions shocked the Red Warriors – when a long ball from midfielder Izzdin Shafiq found Faris Ramli who sneaked behind Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim and gained ground with his speed. With Kelantan goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat coming off his line, Faris was left with a yawning goal before him to give Lions the morale boosting lead.
It was the Kelantan show after this but the Erwin Carrillo, Gilmar Filho and Wan Zack Haikal simply could not turn the chances into goals with Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud a stumbling block in the last line of defence. Fittinglu Izwan was named the Man of the Match in the final.
Wan Zack finally found the net on 62 minutes after being setup by Filho but another blunder by Nik Shahrul put paid to Kelantan’s dreams of winning the Cup for the third time.
This came in the 81st minute when Nik Shahrul lost the ball to Sahil and the latter raced through unchallenged and then shrugged off Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin to slam in from the top of the box.
Kelantan were not only demoralised with the goal but simply lost the fight. This was evident when Amiridzwan, in a desperate attempt to stop Sahil brought the Singaporean down inside the box. Referee Zamzaidin Katimin did not hesitate to book the defender and point to the spot.
Sahil picked himself up and scored – beating Khairul Fahmi all the way in the 91st minute and Lions were celebrating.