Published December 11, 2015
Singapore's LionsXII clinched the Malaysian Super League title Tuesday with a clinical 4-0 win over minnows Felda United, rekindling the city-state's glory days in the competition after a nearly two-decade absence.
The Singapore side needed three points to secure the title, and were gifted with an own goal by Felda's Azrul Ahmad early in the second half, before captain Shahril Ishak and forward Fazrul Nawaz got on the scoresheet in quick succession.
Substitute Shahfiq Ghani completed the rout with a smart low shot past Felda goalkeeper Rozaimie Rohim seven minutes from full-time.
Felda's resilient defending earlier in the first half frustrated LionsXII and the 8000-strong home crowd, who had arrived at the Jalan Besar Stadium in a jubilant mood, anticipating a title celebration.
The nerves among the die-hard fans quickly subsided after Felda's own goal in the 46th minute -- and the noise in the stadium reached fever pitch after the match as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented the league trophy to Shahril Ishak.
"We were waiting for the first goal, after that everything fell in place," LionsXII head coach V. Sundramoorthy told reporters after the game.
"It's good to play against tough opponents...We enjoy the rivalry between Malaysian (regional) states and us," he said.
LionsXII, made up mostly of players from Singapore's U23 national team, finished second in their debut season in the Malaysian Super League last year.
Singapore was a dominant force in the Malaysian Cup -- the predecessor of the Malaysian Super League -- until 1994, when it walked out acrimoniously over a dispute about gate receipts.
The football authorities of the two neighbouring Southeast Asian countries resumed co-operation after striking an agreement in 2011.